Twenty-six-year-old Olivia said she fled from violence in Guatemala to seek asylum in Arizona.
HENDERSON, NV (FOX5) Twenty-six-year-old Olivia said she fled from violence in Guatemala to seek asylum in Arizona. She was apprehended by border patrol, taken from her 5-year-old daughter, more than three months ago.
Despite a judge in San Diego ruling that parents must be reunited with their children, Olivia was still scheduled to be deported. The process was stopped only after Judge Jennifer Dorsey stepped in
"Today in court, the government contended that all children in government custody, that progress has been made in finding their parents, and they will be reunited if the parents are still in the U.S. But we know some of those parents have already been deported," Brian Ramsey, Olivia’s lawyer said.
Olivia’s case was in federal court Friday before Judge Jennifer Dorsey. Judge Dorsey asked U.S. Attorney Sarah Fabian where Olivia was. Fabian said she didn’t know. Olivia’s lawyer, clarified she is in ICE custody in Henderson, Nevada.
Olivia talked about her situation in a phone interview.
"I took a bus from Guatemala to Mexico, and I spent all my money to do this," she said. "Then we were detained and the next day they came to me and said "We are taking your baby."
For weeks, Olivia said she could not find her daughter. With the help of her lawyer who is working on her case pro bono, they were able to find her daughter in New York. Olivia asked her brother to go get her daughter, so that she wasn’t in a detention center any longer. Olivia’s daughter has since been moved to Florida, and her brother said he has no way to get her to Nevada.
In court, government officials said there were 203 children who were like Olivia’s daughter, removed from detention centers, by either sponsors or family members. U.S. Attorney Sarah Fabian said they didn’t know exactly where all those children were, now that they were not in government custody, and they also weren’t sure if their parents had been deported.
"The answer the government gave about finding those 203 children was less than satisfactory," Ramsey said. "They’re supposed to know where those children are but I’m less than confident they actually know, because they keep asking me for the uncle’s phone number."
U.S. Attorney Sarah Fabian declined to be interviewed, deferring to the Department of Justice’s Public Affairs Office. Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement did not return calls for comment.
"A judge made the observation that when you seize property when someone is arrested or detained, the government does a very good job of tracking it," Ramsey said. "But when they seize children, they’ve done such a pitiful job of tracking where these children go."
In court the government said they plan to reunite Olivia and her daughter, but did not give a time frame. Judge Dorsey seemed concerned that Olivia may be deported despite being without her daughter, so she granted a temporary restraining order through Sept. 7 to keep her in the country. Government staff said they hope to reunite Olivia with her daughter at a family shelter in Texas.
Olivia said when she crossed the border in May, she had no idea they were separating families, or she wouldn’t have come.
“Oh my God, I’m just so sad. I’ve had my baby for five years and I love my daughter,” Olivia said. “I just want her back.”
Judge Dorsey asked how Olivia was in the process of being deported despite still being separated from her daughter, and the government said she and her daughter had slipped through the cracks. U.S. Attorney Sarah Fabian said she didn’t have numbers for how many others might be in this same situation.
Brian Ramsey, Olivia’s lawyer, said if they do get reunited, he would like to go to Texas to witness it. He also said Olivia was never given a proper asylum interview, so he plans to file for asylum for Olivia and her daughter again.