— the fuzzy outline of a black-robed judge appeared on a giant plasma TV.
Nobody could find a Mam interpreter for a Guatemalan woman who spoke that Mayan language. So Powell’s docket dwindled to Mirian, a mother from El Salvador who lost her asylum bid during the frenzied weeks after the Trump administration separated her from her daughter and was seeking another chance.
“I’m afraid that there’s nothing we can do on this end,” Powell said.
After President Donald Trump’s experiment in criminally prosecuting all adults who crossed the border illegally, triggering the separation of more than 2,500 children from their parents, the fate of hundr of reunified families has come to this.
Parents who were ordered deported are pleading for a day in immigration court, saying they did not qualify for one in their initial asylum interviews because they were too distraught over their missing sons or daughters.
S. District Judge Dana Sabraw — who ordered them reunited — has imposed a temporary ban on their deportations, which he reaffirmed Thursday.
But much uncertainty remains.
“The stakes are life-and-death for many of these families,” said Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who is leading the main lawsuit in the case. “These are not just ordinary immigration cases.
The majority of children taken from their parents as a result of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy have been reunited with family members, and hundr have been freed in the United States to await hearings in immigration court. About 500 to 600 children remain in Health and Human Services custody, in many cases because their parents were deported and officials are now trying to locate them in their homelands.
“We just want everyone to be happy,” said Michael Sheridan, an ICE official.
Federal officials say the fast-track deportations are designed to swiftly dispense with asylum cases that the government suspects are a ploy to smuggle people into the U.S.
Many fled violence, poverty or abuse and endured harsh conditions traveling to the U.S.
As Mirian did the other day, these parents could ask an immigration judge to review the asylum officer’s decision. But they could not bring witnesses, as they would be able to do in a full-fledged proceeding, and their lawyers often weren’t allowed to speak.
“That’s what we’re fighting for: For every family to have a fair day in court,” said Katy Murdza, advocacy coordinator for the Dilley Pro-Bono Project, which offers legal aid to migrant parents and children, including some whose fates will be determined by the cases before Sabraw. “How can someone, in an hour, be sure that they made the right decision?” she said.
While employees at Dilley said they do not notice a difference between the reunited families and the much larger group of migrants who were never separated, Pro Bono Project volunteers said the reunited women and children are reluctant to be apart and had to be prodded to accept legal help. Many suffer headaches, nightmares and depression.
Most were released in the U.S.
In some cases, parents waive the 20-day limit a federal consent decree established for how long minors can be in ICE custody, so they can keep their children with them at Dilley while they wait for their cases to be resolved.
The Trump administration, which spends more than $200 million a year detaining families at centers in Dilley and Karnes, is deeply frustrated with the rise in asylum-seeking families crossing the border and the various rules and court protections that often mandate their release.
An outraged U.S.
District Judge Emmet Sullivan scolded government lawyers and ordered the pair brought back.
“Turn that plane around,” he said.