A hopeful update to our story Mothers without Children
On Tuesday, May 8th, they took her son away from her. On Friday, June 15th, mother and son were finally reunited.
For 38 days, the mother remained in T. Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, a former medium-security state prison. Meanwhile, her five-year-old son was two hours away in another facility in San Antonio.
Thankfully, both mother and son are now in a state far north of Texas—settling in with family members while Delia, a survivor of horrific violence in Guatemala, continues the long and arduous process of seeking asylum.
It’s not a happy ending, per se, but it is a happy beginning. Local activists believe that this may be the first parent and child reunion—at least in Texas—since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration’s new policy of separating migrant families at the border on May 7th.
“I’m glad they are together now, but what about the thousands of other parents and kids still separated?” asks Virginia Raymond, Delia’s pro bono attorney. “As happy as I am for this family, I am heartbroken for the others.”
Virginia is the legal director for Austin Region Justice for Our Neighbors, and has devoted a large part of her career to representing detained Central American families, as well as other asylum-seekers. These are among the most difficult, most stressful, and time-consuming cases of immigration law.
Access to legal counsel is crucial for asylum seekers; they have little hope without it. A 2015 University of Pennsylvania study found that immigrants with attorneys are ten times more likely to succeed in an asylum case than those who try to do it on their own.
Virginia describes the steps she took to reunite mother and son and give them a chance for a life free of violence and fear. We think they are rather extraordinary, but Virginia insists she just does what needs to be done to help her clients:
1. Her initial consultation with Delia at the detention facility.
2. Listening to Delia’s story, and helping her to understand what would happen at the credible fear interview, so that Delia would be prepared for the questions the asylum officer would ask.
3. Remaining with Delia during her credible fear interview; immediately going back to the detention center when Delia received a positive credible fear finding a little over a week later.
4. Raising money for Delia’s bond—set at $1,500. The importance of bond cannot be overstated; it is far more difficult to prepare an asylum claim for a person who is inside a detention facility.
5. Seeking reunification with Delia’s five-year old son.
6. Buying airline tickets, a phone with enough minutes to last until Delia reached their destination, and other essentials. People in the community came forward to donate toys and clothes suitable for a five-year old boy and a suitcase.
7. Helping Delia find a suitable immigration attorney in her new home, to guide her through the next phase of the asylum process.
8. Hosting mother and son at her own house for two nights before their flights, and introducing them to pizza!
9. Driving them to the airport and putting them on the plane to their new home in the United States. A kind woman on the same flight switched seats so that mother and son could sit together on the long flight. She even offered to walk them to baggage claim at their destination.
“There are more generous people then meanies,” says Virginia, ever-hopeful, ever-optimistic.
And then she turns and begins working on her next case.
*For an in-depth story of Delia and her son—including video—please read Debbie Nathan’s excellent article in The Intercept.