One New Mexico story is proving why many immigrants don’t trust President Donald Trump’s administration or the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
According to The Santa Fe New Mexican, undocumented Guatemalan immigrant Gari was contacted by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and told that they had located his brother on the Mexico/Arizona border. They asked that he take over guardianship, even though the two brothers hadn’t seen each other for over 10 years.
Doing so meant Gari would have to provide his personal information to the government, which would alert them to the fact that he was undocumented. Health and Human Services officials swore to Gari in January that nothing would happen and it wouldn’t jeopardize his safety. They simply needed a legal guardian for the brother facing his own immigration trial.
Gari agreed to do it and by Aug. 14 he was being arrested, using his little brother as bait. They were also seeking his wife, who has two young children as well, but she wasn’t home at the time. The New Mexican argued that the case “illustrates the effects of President Donald Trump’s hard-line approach to immigration enforcement.” This kind of action wasn’t done under former President Barack Obama’s administration.
The administration also closed a 2014 program that allowed unaccompanied minor children from Central America to stay in the U.S. if they had authorized relatives. Gari’s brother fell under that group of over 170,000 kids fleeing violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
“This is a good example of Americans not understanding when they say they want to punish immigrants,” said immigration attorney Allegra Love, who is representing Gari’s younger brother. Trump’s administration announced this summer it would target those relatives.
DHS took over the responsibility of connecting the children to family. ICE claims it’s trying to combat human trafficking and that’s why they need to come after the relatives the government once pledged to protect. Over 400 people have been arrested due to the new efforts. However, immigrant advocates say that the new Trump rules won’t do anything to help stop human trafficking.
“They’re going after the low-hanging fruit,” Love explained. There are at least three cases in Santa Fe where ICE arrested the adult sponsors of the unaccompanied minors.
“I think the message is quite clear to families: They ought to be frightened, they ought to be scared and not trust representatives of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, because any exposure to the federal government means that ICE might come knocking on the door,” said immigration law professor César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández. “And that does a disservice to the ORR staff and also their humanitarian mission.”
Gari’s brother fled an abusive uncle for the treacherous journey from poverty-stricken Guatemala to the promised land at just 16 years old.
“The road from there to here is too dangerous,” said Gari’s wife. She took the same journey decades ago herself. She said that Gari was angry he did it, saying that something bad could have happened to him.
“The brother is sad. He says this is all happening because it’s his fault,” she continued. “He sometimes starts crying.”
ICE has a goal of finding and deporting 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S.