A total of 28 immigrant children and their families who have spent more than 400 days in family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania are at risk of being deported as early as this weekend because the Administration of President Donald Trump is refusing to allow them to file their asylum claims, their lawyers said Wednesday.
“These families have been victims of the multiple changes the Trump Administration has made to the asylum program, which have closed the doors on them and punished them by keeping them inside a detention center for months,” said immigration attorney Bridget Cambria of Village-Justice Center for the People at a virtual press conference.
The 28 children range in age from 12 to 18, and are part of 23 families from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Ecuador, Chile, Nicaragua, Peru and Haiti. Of these, 26 children are at the Dilley Family Detention Center in South Texas and two more at the Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania.
An order issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has protected them from deportation. However, this order ends on November 21, so the lawyers fear they will be deported immediately.
The lawyers say that these families have been victims of various policies implemented by the Trump Administration that have been defeated in court. Their credible fear argument was rejected because they were first interviewed by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official who the lawyers say is not qualified to conduct these types of proceedings.
The families were also denied the right to seek asylum due to the policy known as the “third country” policy, which denied migrants from another country to seek asylum if they did not previously do so in Mexico. Although this policy has also been overturned by the courts, the government has refused to allow these families to present their cases.
“I can’t stand being here anymore; help us get out of here. I don’t want to spend another Christmas in a detention center”, was the cry for help from an 8-year-old boy who has been detained for 455 days and who gave his testimony during the virtual conference.
The lawyers today launched the campaign on social networks under the name “#SafetyForththe28” trying to avoid deportations as they fear for the lives of migrants if they are returned to their countries of origin.