A 9-year-old Brazilian migrant child reunited this week with his father at the Berks detention facility in Leesport, Pennsylvania, could once again be separated from his father, who is going through a fast-track deportation process without him, according to sources at a law firm representing them.
Bridget Cambria, an attorney at immigration law firm Cambria & Kline, said that this is the first case she has heard of where a previously separated family has been reunited with a child at a family detention facility. The case is at Berks Family Residential Center, the smallest and longest-running facility in the country – one of only three centers in the U.S. that detain undocumented children with their parents.
Cambria said her firm recently saw a 16-year-old boy released from the same Chicago shelter as the 9-year-old reunited with his family – but authorities let the 16-year-old finish the case proceedings with his family from a home. In this case, the 9-year-old has been detained at Berks.
“There was no justification for the difference in why one would be detained, why one would not,” she said. “The only indication we received was, ‘we have space for the 9-year-old, but the 16-year-old, we can’t fit.’ ”
Reached for comment, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea said she would need additional information to look into the case and that, because the request came on Friday after business hours, she would not have a response until tomorrow.
According to Cambria, the boy was brought from a Chicago shelter and reunited with his father on Thursday. But now, she says, authorities from ICE are declining to process them together.
That is because his father is set to undergo expedited removal, a fast-track deportation. Children on their own cannot be processed through expedited removal under law; they are automatically entitled to a full hearing.
Sending parents through expedited removal while separated from their children, Cambria said, puts ICE in a quandary: Either agents can give children the due process to which they are entitled, or they can keep children with their parents – but not both.
Processing kids and their parents on separate tracks means that “when they try to bring them together, parents have proceeded through steps – whether it’s an interview, or a review from a judge … the child has never been a part (of),” Cambria said. “How are they going to ensure the kids’ rights are protected?”
Cambria said that most likely, authorities will simply “attach (the child) to the parents’ removal order and send them out,” rather than the child getting any due process at all.
“They’ll get deported and never participate in an interview, file an asylum application or have their rights adjudicated,” she said.
Cambria said the situation portends similar issues for future reunited families.
“This is the huge problem the government has created, parents on one track, kids on another,” Cambria said. “And when they try to bring them together, what’s going on? What are their rights? This is a huge problem they’ll run into when they reunite.”
Send questions and tips about immigration issues to Reveal at firstname.lastname@example.org.