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New York Times

“I don’t know where my daughter is”: Immigrant parents are desperate for the news

When Maria Anna Mendes left Honduras to make money in the United States 10 years ago, her daughter Cindy was still playing with dolls with pigtails. However, Mendes, who settled down with work and an apartment in northern New York, was ready to live Cindy with her. She paid a guide $ 8,000 in February and now 16-year-old Cindy for thousands of miles in the United States because she hasn’t yet legal status and couldn’t legally take her to the country. I took him to the front door. Three weeks later, Mendes was first contacted by her daughter. She crossed the Rio Grande on a raft and was detained at a temporary US border camp in Donna, Texas. She hadn’t taken a shower for five days and slept on the ground. She didn’t feel good. Signing up for the morning newsletter from The New York Times Days without news turned into weeks of distress as Mendes repeatedly called the US government hotline to find out where his daughter was. On April 3rd, Cindy was able to call from a hospital in San Diego. She told her mother that she was “very ill” with COVID-19. “I can’t stand this anymore,” said Mendes, who booked a flight to San Diego. The surge in arrivals at the border has brought nearly 20,000 immigrant children under government control. This is the largest number in recent memory. Immigration authorities take care of them, contact their parents, and handle them for release, causing confusion and confusion. The Byden administration hastily opened emergency intake locations at convention centers in San Diego and Dallas, the Coliseum and Expo Center in San Antonio, a former oil camp in Midland, Texas, and an army base in Fort Bliss, Texas. Other sites, including the Convention Center in Long Beach, California, will soon accommodate children. However, the government is still struggling to staff, and parents of immigrants across the country, who often do not know what happened to their children after entering the United States, are becoming more and more desperate. Some children go for more than a few weeks without being able to contact their parents. In Austin, Texas, a Honduras woman is waiting for news of her two children 6 and 9. They were taken to the border by their families in March, but then separated from their adult relatives and taken to unknown destinations. Honduras’ father said his 14-year-old son, who arrived in March, was said to be one of the 2,000 immigrant boys in the Dallas convention center. But he hasn’t talked to him yet. A Guatemalan woman in Iowa City, Iowa, completed two documents to reunite with her 16-year-old sister, who had been detained by the government since crossing the border on March 4. She was recently transferred from a Texas shelter to another Pennsylvania shelter by a teenager. “I’m very worried about her. I don’t know why they moved her or what’s happening,” said female Juana Kyuk Brito, 32. .. The problem is very high as the new administration is struggling to staff temporary housing, contact parents and hire enough staff to ensure that children are released safely. It seems to be one of the things. Government officials are doing their best to cope with the recent flood of borders, safe housing and safe placement for children already facing the serious danger of traveling to Mexico and crossing the border. I am trying to provide. “I can tell you clearly, don’t come,” President Joe Biden said last month. “Don’t leave your town, city or community.” Still, hundreds of children are being intercepted daily and taken to processing centers. In Rio Grande Valley, Texas, the border facility was operating at 743% capacity last month. Donna’s tent structure had a capacity of 1,707%. About half of the children who arrive at the border come to reunite with parents like Mendes, who have lived in the United States for many years. In many cases, the children were raised by grandmothers and other relatives who are now aging and can no longer take care of them. Like their parents, many are teenagers who never see the future in their home country. Most people cannot sponsor the legal migration of their children to the United States, either because their parents lack legal status or because the asylum case remains unprocessed in the immigration court. They rely on smuggling networks to transport them. Nearly 16,500 migrant teenagers and children who cross the border without parents are held in a Department of Health and Human Services facility until they meet the requirements for liberation. About 4,000 more people are stuck at the border guard station, waiting for the beds in these shelters to open. Emergency facilities provide access to medical care, including clean bedrooms, meals, toiletries, laundry, and coronavirus screening. Services are provided by a combination of contractors and federal staff. However, there is still a serious shortage of case managers dealing with bureaucracy. It is these social workers who contact their parents and request a document to begin the process of releasing their children to them. Once the parent has submitted the documents and passed the background check, the placement of the child must be approved by a specially designated officer to ensure that the child is safe. According to child welfare experts, staff shortages at all levels are released on average only about 300 minors a day, and as more children cross the border, desperate for new bed spaces. Is one of the main reasons for creating competition. .. Attorney Lithia Welch, who the team interviewed about 20 children at several water intakes in Texas on March 29 and 30, said no children had been appointed as case managers by that time. .. Lawyers found that many children had been waiting for weeks before being allowed to talk to their families. “The first and foremost desire of these children is to reunite with their families,” Welch said. “They were dying to hear their parents.” A child she interviewed in Dallas told her she went for three months without contacting her family and made her first call the day before. So she said shed tears. Many parents had already experienced weeks of anxiety when their children often embarked on a dangerous journey through Mexico in the hands of smugglers. Customs and Border Protection officials released a video of a sobbing 10-year-old Nicaraguan boy found wandering in remote Texas this week after being abandoned by a group he was traveling with. .. “The inhumane way smugglers abuse their children while benefiting from their parents’ despair is criminal and morally condemned,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mallorcas said in a March statement. Stated. “Just this month, a girl drowned, six months old was thrown into a river, two young children were dropped from a wall and left alone in the desert.” Since arriving in the United States 10 years ago. The 42-year-old Mendes managed to manage his job as a housekeeper, a fish processing factory packer, and a desert chef’s assistant, sending $ 200 to $ 300 back to his family every two weeks. Last year, Mendes watched a video of her daughter graduating from high school. Cindy wanted to realize her dream of becoming a computer programmer, and it was time to do that, she said. Cindy checked in with her mother every few days as she headed north towards the border. In preparation for her arrival, Mendes painted her room pink, with a new bed and a colorful princess spread. She hung a helium balloon to celebrate it. Cindy arrived in Texas in early March and was intercepted by border guards and taken to a processing center. After the first call from her daughter, Mendes worriedly waited for more news. But weeks later, Mendes heard that her daughter’s case was “pending” every time she called the Refugee Resettlement Administration’s call center, which was responsible for protecting migrant children. “I don’t know where my daughter is,” Mendes said in an interview on March 26. “No one tells me anything.” The agency does not answer questions about staffing and reunification procedures, but it is generally said that children are carefully explained and are in contact with their parents as soon as possible. Rushing the process puts the child at risk, officials say. When Mendes couldn’t find out where his daughter was, he contacted immigration lawyer Kate Lincoln Goldfinch. He filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General. He said the handling of Cindy’s case represented a “significant deviation” from the Biden administration’s stated policy of reuniting unaccompanied minors with their parents as quickly as possible. “We are afraid that the child has gone missing or has not been explained by the agency,” the letter concludes. Nothing happened. And on April 3rd, Mendes’ cell phone made a humming noise. It was Cindy. “Mami, I’m in a hospital in San Diego. I have a COVID,” she told her mother, her voice is weak. She said she was very sick and was staying at the San Diego convention center before being transferred to the hospital by ambulance. “Why don’t they leave her in the hospital and advise me?” Mendes said. It took her a day to receive the latest information about her child’s condition. Lincoln-Goldfinch called the hospital, but she said the nurse and social worker initially introduced her to the border guard and refused to disclose the information. In an interview from the hospital on Monday, Cindy said she had been quarantined in a convention center room with about 1,400 girls, including 20 others who tested positive for the coronavirus. Finally, on Tuesday, Mendes learned that Cindy had recovered from her illness and would be discharged soon. She was told that the government had approved her release from detention. Mendes immediately flew to San Diego and went straight from the airport to the convention center late Wednesday. Fifteen minutes later, the mother and daughter appeared in tears. This article was originally published in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company