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Immigrant families: ‘We are not criminals’

On Behalf of | Nov 4, 2016 | Immigration Detention

A Guatemalan woman brought her three children to the U.S. border to escape the violence and chaos that had overtaken their country. When she spoke with an immigrantion officer at the border, she told him they had come for asylum.

She recently told CNN that when they were given food and drinks and put aboard a bus, she finally relaxed during her family’s long, hard journey. They soon learned that they were headed for a detention center, where the family would spend the next couple of months.

“We come here for help,” she told CNN. “And they treat you worse than an animal, worse than a criminal.” Her children are 17, 14 and 6 years old.

An immigrantion attorney who spoke to a reporter said that the federal government’s detention policy will not stop families fleeing violence back home from seeking safety in the U.S. The lawyer said the recent surge in Central American families coming across the border should be dealt with as a humanitarian crisis and not as a threat to national security.

She pointed out that under U.S. law, the way to get refugee status is to come here and ask for it. “That is provided for in the law. That is not law breaking.”

Those seeking asylum have to show that they face persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political beliefs or because they belong to a particular social group.

The Guatemalan woman said her stay in detention was traumatic, comparing it to jail. “We are not criminals,” she told CNN. She said she expects that detention will have a long-lasting effect on her kids.

In a September report, the American Academy of Pediatrics said the detention centers “do not meet appropriate standards for the safety and well-being of children.”

An experienced San Diego immigrantion attorney can help families navigate the complex immigrantion system, seek asylum and contest detention and deportation.