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Mother reunited with son after separation

Woman is among thousands affected by Trump admin. policy

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO
Mother reunited with son after separation
W.R., whose son was taken by immigration officials, talks to reporters during a press conference at the Brazilian Workers Center. Banner photo

Fleeing an abusive husband who she said had threatened her with a knife and gun, a Brazilian woman turned herself in to immigration officials after crossing into the United States without documentation in May.

Although the woman, whose attorneys identified by the initials W.R., sought refugee status in the United States, federal officials immediately separated her from her 9-year-old son, handcuffed her and locked her up, beginning a six-week ordeal similar to what has played out among more than 2,000 border crossers in recent months.

Legal help

Unlike the majority of immigrants forcibly separated from their children, W.R. received help from pro-bono attorneys. A judge ruled in favor of W.R. and she and her son were reunited Saturday, July 14.

“I am so happy to have my son with me again,” said W.R. sitting with her son, her lawyers and an interpreter at the Brazilian Worker Center in Allston on Monday. “It has been very painful, and it’s not over yet.”

The Trump administration instituted a policy earlier this year of separating parents who cross into the United States at the U.S. border from their children. Images of children sleeping on floors in caged detention facilities soon went viral, sparking nationwide protest and pushback from GOP lawmakers.

Many still detained

Trump administration officials say they’ve ended the practice of family separation, but more than 2,000 children remain in detention facilities. For many, the U.S. government has no documentation, nor any clear means to reunite them with their parents.

For W.R., things began to look bleak when immigration officials refused to tell her where her son was being detained or what his case number was.

At the same time, Lawyers’ Committee attorneys and pro bono attorneys from WilmerHale fought government attorneys who argued that the U.S. was justified in separating W.R. from her child.

“The government failed to present a single factual or legal basis for the initial separation, let alone its refusal to reunite the family that it illegally broke,” said Lawyers’ Committee Executive Director Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal. “This is a deliberate government campaign to intimidate and punish immigrants.”

During the press conference Monday, W.R. spoke to reporters through an interpreter while her son sat next to her, then moved to her lap. She expressed hope that other immigrants would not have to suffer through the same ordeal she and her son endured.

“Regardless of our immigration status, ethnicity or the color of our skin, we should be treated fairly,” she told reporters.

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