A woman from Honduras was breastfeeding her daughter in a detention center in Texas when federal agents took her child away from her—and handcuffed her when she fought back.
The mother cried when recalling the incident to a lawyer on Tuesday. She was detained as per Trump’s May zero-tolerance policy, wherein any person who illegally crosses the border is prosecuted.
Children separated from their parents in these situations become the responsibility of the Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families. It is the official rhetoric of the administration that it tries to reunite families after trials, but a large part of the burden is placed on parents to find their children within government custody on their own. “The government is essentially torturing people by doing this,” said Natalia Cornelio, attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project.
Miguel A. Nogueras, assistant federal public defender in McAllen for the Southern District of Texas, told CNN that his office unofficially counts that over 500 kids have been separated from their parents since May. Some parents tell the lawyers they don’t know where their children are. Others say they were taken away to be bathed and then never seen again.
The Trump administration’s immigration practices are causing a larger influx of separated children at the border, and its plans thus far to manage that influx include putting children in cages and building tent cities for them to live in. The increase in prosecution has overwhelmed the courts near the borders. According to Nogueras, the McAllen courthouse handled about 20 to 30 cases a day in the Obama and Bush administrations; now, they are handling over 100. In McAllen alone, 60 kids were separated from their parents just this Tuesday and Wednesday.
“This is a new policy created by this Administration to use children as leverage to deter people who are desperately seeking safety,” Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal said in a statement. “Instead of helping them find refuge, we are ripping their children from them in hopes of deterring other desperate people. This reminds me of concentration and/or internment camps in which children were separated from their parents under false pretenses never to be reunited. A country that values human rights can have no part of this.”
Smeal, alongside advocates from other feminist and human rights organizations and members of Congress, took to the streets in Washington, D.C. Wednesday to protest the policy and rally in support of the Keep Families Together Act, which will forbid separating parents and children within 100 miles of the border.