In spite of Donald Trump’s executive order ending the separation of families at the US-Mexico border, there remain mothers separated from their children who have no idea where their kids are.
In interviews with The New Yorker, women detained Otero County Prison — a privately-run detention center housing migrants in New Mexico — said that after their children were taken away following their arrests at the border, they have had difficulty finding any information about where they are.
On May 26, Honduran asylum-seeker Esmeralda Pérez and her nine-year-old son Jefferson were arrested in El Paso, Texas after crossing the border. She was allowed to spend a single night with her son, who she says has health issues that require regular attention from her. He was then taken away from her by Border Patrol after she was told she needed to pay a penalty and go to jail — and she hasn’t seen or heard from Jefferson since.
Though one of Pérez’s relatives conveyed to her that her son may be at a facility run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement in Michigan, she said she has almost no way of finding out herself while both of them are detained. According the report, “contacting the office is nearly impossible from inside detention.”
Wesliane Souza, an Otero inmate from Brazil that was separated from her 13-year-old son, told the New Yorker that of the 50 mothers in her wing who’d been separated from their children, “few of them know where their kids are.” After fleeing to the United States to escape an abusive partner, Souza and her son were arrested in El Paso on June 1, and after two days together a Border Patrol agent informed her that she had five minutes to say goodbye to her child.
“I didn’t know what to say to my son because I didn’t know where he was going,” the woman said. “There were other mothers and children all around us, and everyone was crying.”
Souza noted that many of the women at Otero were likely to leave with psychological issues, and reporter Jonathan Blitzer pointed out that she appeared to exhibit some herself — rocking back and forth while speaking, muttering to herself and an occasional “vacant look” on her face.