He should have picked it up from the migration offices, but he didn't come because he feared it was a trap to arrest him

Juan Manolo was called on the phone by immigration agents to pick up his four-year-old son at his offices in Los Angeles, when he arrived, he decided not to enter for fear that it was a trap to arrest and deport him.

Three days after what happened, the Guatemalan immigrant, asylum seeker, has his soul in suspense because he does not know where his son is and how he is.

"I only know they have it in a shelter, but I don't know where or how it is”, He says desperate to know nothing about his son Tyler.

This tragedy began when his sister Vilma went to an appointment at the offices of the Migration and Customs Service (ICE) in Los Angeles, without imagining that she was allegedly being arrested for a prior deportation order. The problem is that she was accompanied by her eight-year-old daughter and her four-year-old nephew. Vilma and her daughter were taken into custody to an ICE center in Texas, but their nephew's whereabouts are unknown.

The brothers Manolo and Vilma with their youngest children Thailys and Tyler. (photo courtesy).

Vilma's arrest occurred on Tuesday, February 4. After she and her daughter were arrested, ICE agents called Manolo to pick up his son Tyler.

"I went immediately, but some friends that I met before entering the building, warned me that it was a trap and that they were going to arrest me as they did with my sister and her daughter," he adds.

Manolo decided to leave the place with a broken heart for not knowing what was going to happen with his son.

“I feel terrible, hurt, frustrated. I can not sleep. I wake up thinking about him, ”and continues. "I ask the immigration authorities to have compassion for the pain so great that my son and I are suffering."

Juan Manolo, an immigrant from Guatemala searches for his son who was taken into custody by ICE. (Courtesy Juan Manolo)

Vilma and Manolo L. are brothers. She is 38 years old, and he is 24. They both fled Guatemala with their respective children. Vilma with her daughter Thaily; and Manolo with his son Tyler. They applied for political asylum on May 27, 2019 at the Texas state border.

Because they had an acquaintance in Los Angeles, they came to this city when they were released by ICE, less than a week after entering the country.

“They let us out without paying a bond. They didn't put a shackle on us either, ”recalls Juan Manolo.

The four of them went together to a first migration date in July 2019. “Then they gave my sister Vilma an appointment for February 4 that was when she was arrested; I have my appointment for March 26, ”explains Manolo.

He details that they appeared at the hearings without a lawyer because they had no money to pay for legal assistance

"Neither my sister nor I can return to Guatemala. We have received death threats after my eight-year-old niece was tried to rape, ”she says. "We bring medical evidence of that fact".

Vilma and her daughter Thailys are under ICE detention after attending a migration appointment. (Courtesy Juan Manolo)

The opinion She tried to find out about Tyler's whereabouts, but the spokeswoman for the Migration and Customs Service (ICE), Lorie Haley said private law prohibits them from providing information about minors.

A very recurring problem

Gloria Saucedo, head of the San Fernando-based Mexico Center in Los Angeles County, said she will see many cases such as Juan Manolo and his sister Vilma who have come to the US with their children seeking refuge.

“They are families with children whose migration has left them free to seek legal help for their cases. But because they are poor and they spent their money to come to this country, or they borrowed to make the trip, they don't have to pay a lawyer to defend them”, Says Saucedo.

“They are parents who come with the desire to work and get out of the poverty they are fleeing from. Almost everyone is working, but they have to pay rent, keep themselves, send money to their home countries; and it is not enough for them to pay legal assistance, ”he adds. “They arrive at their migration appointments with fear; or they don't show up and they get deportation orders for absence ”.

Juan Manolo was separated from his son by ICE on Tuesday, February 4. (Photo courtesy of Juan Manolo)

The activist says that the situation of these brothers seeking asylum shows that they are accelerating cases to put them into deportation.

“It is the sadness of these caravans. Those who manage to cross into the US are put in charge of deportation, ”he says.

Saucedo reiterates that The crossroads of families in caravans is the lack of legal assistance when they arrive in this country. “If a law is not organized to protect them, they will end their dreams. They will not go to their appointments for fear, they will run away, or they will run out of documents for many years. ”

Violation of the Flores Agreement

Peter Schey, president of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Laws and lead lawyer of the Flores Agreement, which requires migrant children to be reunited with their families in the United States as soon as possible, says that it cannot be tolerated that Migration use children as bait to arrest their parents.

"Using child information to arrest parents or relatives who are sponsors is a constant problem under the Trump administration in Lo Angeles County and across the country, and is a violation of the Flore Agreements, ”says the lawyer.

And he regrets that there is very little legal assistance for these cases and programs with defenders to help them.

“We managed to include a policy in the national budget so that when there is no one who picks up the minors, they are delivered to shelters with a license like the one we created in Los Angeles,“ Casa Libre ”so that in a few weeks they will be delivered to their parents or relatives, ”he says.

Schey reveals that they are now working to develop a group of volunteer families under the concept “Families Sanctuary”, So that they provide a temporary roof for minors when their parents are afraid to pick them up.

"We have never used it, but we want to develop it as a pilot program in alliance with faith organizations, the city government and the county," he says.


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