‘We is dying from sadness’: the fathers and sons reunited behind bars

'We Is Dying From Sadness': The Fathers And Sons Reunited Behind Bars

A rare look inside an immigration prison uncovers the agony of indefinitely incarcerated families: poor schooling, little sleep, and no idea when they will get out

'We Is Dying From Sadness': The Fathers And Sons Reunited Behind Bars

Eight-year-old Jorge Jr is withdrawn. He doesn’t lift his head up from the table for much of the hour-long visit at the immigrant detention center.

” He’s lost four pounds[ 1.8 kg] since we got here. He’s not the same child ,” said his father, Jorge.” The psychologist asked me if I wanted to give him any drug. I told them the best medicine is freedom. All we need is to be free .”

It’s been a traumatic few months for Jorge and Jorge Jr. After illegally crossing the Rio Grande into south Texas, the pair were arrested and separated by the US Border Patrol. Jorge Jr was sent to a shelter for a few months while his father was processed in the criminal justice system under zero tolerance, the subject of a major Guardian investigation this week, for illegal entry to the US. Though now reunited, the pair- and thousands of others like them- face a new horror: indefinite detention.

The Guardian satisfy three decides of reunited but incarcerated fathers and sons at the Karnes detention center, about an hour south-east of San Antonio, in early September: Hondurans Jorge and Jorge Jr and Franklin and Franklin Jr, as well as Elmer and his son Heyler from Guatemala. They are among the 800 “residents” at the prison where most children have been detained for far longer than the legal limit of 20 days.

” We’ve all been detained with our sons and have no idea when we’re getting out. I’ve been here with Franklin[ Jr] for 53 days. I’m counting every day ,” Franklin said in a subsequent phone interview- US Immigration and Customs Enforcement( Ice) forbids visitors’ record devices and notebooks from the detention centre.

All three households fled their home countries in fear and applied for political asylum when they were taken into immigration detention. While they were separated from their sons, the fathers failed the” believable dread” interview they need to pass to seek asylum, but are all appealing their cases.

” It was sell medications or be killed, so that’s when I decided to leave Honduras ,” Franklin said, referring to threats his son received from gangs near the capital, Tegucigalpa. He rode through Mexico on the roof of a shipment train dubbed La Bestia ( the animal) with his son strapped to him with his belt so he wouldn’t fall off.

Children - 'We Is Dying From Sadness': The Fathers And Sons Reunited Behind Bars
Children are led into a detention facility in Tornillo, Texas, during the height of the family separation crisis in June. Photograph: Mike Blake/ Reuters

Jorge left the Olancho region of Honduras for similar reasons.” It used to be nice but bad people turned up and started extorting, killing people, selling and trafficking medications. So many of us left ,” Jorge said.” I can’t mention names because if it comes out in the news bad things happen .”

” They want to kill me in Guatemala ,” Elmer said he told immigration policemen when he presented himself at the Roma, Texas, perimeter traversing asking for asylum. He was extorted by a gang that had already murdered his brother-in-law in his home town of El Chal in Guatemala’s Peten region.

” The officer told me there are murderers here, too. We aren’t going to give you asylum, we are going to separate you from your son .”

For a month, Elmer didn’t speak to his son or even know where he was.” They kidnapped him, that’s what they did ,” he said.

Incarceration of asylum seekers

Prior to zero tolerance this year, asylum seekers were typically released from detention as they pursued their asylum asserts. Today, unlawful perimeter crossers are criminally prosecuted before moving to immigration detention, even if they tell Border Patrol they are fleeing for their own lives. Getting bonded out or paroled is now much less likely.

While the parents were being processed, “their childrens” were sent thousands of miles away: Heyler and Jorge to New York, but Franklin does not know where Franklin Jr was sent.” They told me to a shelter in Texas. But he says he got on a plane, so I think they sent him to California ,” Franklin says.

The infants are struggling to cope with their incarceration. Franklin Jr wants to be outside playing with horses. In Honduras he used to watch his father train horses for dressage competitions.

Heyler describes the ” school ” within the detention center as just playing or watching television.” We don’t learn anything ,” he said.

Children - 'We Is Dying From Sadness': The Fathers And Sons Reunited Behind Bars
Children line up in the cafeteria at the Karnes center. Photograph: Eric Gay/ AP

Sleep is hard to come by. Although each family has its own room, the parents say that guards do bed checks every 30 minutes during the night, knocking on the door and waking them up.

Jorge Jr’s weight loss has attracted the attention of Karnes staff and is attaining his father anxious.” If he doesn’t feed they accuse me of being a bad parent and threaten to take him away from me ,” said Jorge.

A new kind of trauma

Having supposed the family separation was over, Elmer and Jorge were retraumatized on 15 August, when riot-clad Ice policemen separated them and 14 other fathers from their sons again, taking them to a detention facility about two hours away from Karnes.

” It to occur in two in the afternoon, while our sons were at school ,” said Jorge.” We were put into solitary confinement and we were all crying .”

After 28 hours, the men were taken back to Karnes and reunited with their sons.

An Ice spokeswoman said the raid was a response to a “disturbance” involving about 40 humen.” Ice San Antonio deployed additional law enforcement resources to control the situation ,” she said, is proof that 16 of the men were temporarily relocated.” No one was injured during this incident .”

” The infants were sad because they didn’t think they were going to see us again ,” said Jorge.” We were sad, too, for the reasons .”

Now if the men are detected talking in groups of three or more, the guards will transgress them up.

” Then they start asking us questions about what we are talking about. We tell them we are telling each other jokes, sharing our experiences ,” said Elmer.

‘We don’t want to be here any more’

After months behind bars, the parents are losing hope. They would still prefer to remain in the United States, but want to fight their cases outside detention.

The Flores Settlement, the court ruling that governs the therapy of child migrants, is supposed to limit detention for immigrant children to 20 days but Ice takes the position that because the parents are appealing their cases and want to remain with their sons, they must remain in detention, said Manoj Govindaiah, the family detention legal director of Raices, a legal aid centre for migrants.

A - 'We Is Dying From Sadness': The Fathers And Sons Reunited Behind Bars
A son from Honduras watches a movie at a detention facility in McAllen, Texas. Photograph: John Moore/ Getty Images

” What Ice is doing is completely arbitrary ,” Govindaiah said. Some families are released, while others are not. Since family separation happened the beginning of this year, Raices has six faculty lawyers and six legal assistants working at Karnes.

” It’s nearly impossible to explain things to our clients, many of whom are fleeing violence with their children and all of whom have experienced even more traumatization because of family separation and zero tolerance ,” Govindaiah said.

Elmer is losing hope.” We’ve been here since the end of July ,” he said.” I don’t want to be here any more. We don’t want to be here any more .”

Jorge Jr was desperate not to expend his birthday- which came and went at the end of September- in Karnes.

” And yet we’re still being detained ,” Jorge said, unsure if he’ll receive asylum or be deported.” This is punishing our children. We are going to die from sadness in here .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

'We Is Dying From Sadness': The Fathers And Sons Reunited Behind Bars
'We Is Dying From Sadness': The Fathers And Sons Reunited Behind Bars
'We Is Dying From Sadness': The Fathers And Sons Reunited Behind Bars
'We Is Dying From Sadness': The Fathers And Sons Reunited Behind Bars
'We Is Dying From Sadness': The Fathers And Sons Reunited Behind Bars

'We Is Dying From Sadness': The Fathers And Sons Reunited Behind Bars

'We Is Dying From Sadness': The Fathers And Sons Reunited Behind Bars

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