Advocates told Rewire.News that some of these children remain purposely separated from the adults they migrated with because they are legal guardians, not "parents."
Immigration officials deported 54-year-old “Grandma Rosy,” as she’s being called by advocates, on August 16 after separating her from her 12-year-old granddaughter “Cindy” (a pseudonym) on May 7.
Rosy, whose name is withheld for safety reasons, and her granddaughter were fleeing gang violence in El Salvador. The grandmother’s own daughter was disappeared by local gangs and presumed killed, her attorney told Rewire.News. Rosy searched for her daughter for months, to no avail. This is how Rosy came to be Cindy’s legal guardian. But when gangs began recruiting Cindy to run errands for them and be a lookout during drug deals, Rosy knew it was time to leave.
“They threatened Cindy’s life. They pointed a gun at her and threatened to harm her. They said they were going to take Cindy from Rosy. They demanded money. Rosy went to the police, but they didn’t do anything,” her attorney, Lizbeth Mateo, told Rewire.News. “The police actually told Rosy that if she didn’t pay, she would end up killed. She had no choice but to leave. She told me that she already lost one child and she wasn’t going to lose another.”
Mateo said that her deportation was unlawful “on multiple levels.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) repeatedly asked Rosy to give up the legal rights to her granddaughter while she was in detention, Mateo said, which suggests that ICE knew she had rights over her granddaughter and that she should have been protected by a recent preliminary injunction. Issued by a California judge, the injunction required the government to reunite parents with their children by July 26, and ordered the government to stop deporting parents without their children unless the parent “affirmatively, knowingly, and voluntarily” agreed to be deported alone.
“She refused to sign her rights away and ICE kept trying, every couple of weeks they would ask her the same thing,” Mateo told Rewire.News in a phone interview prior to Rosy’s deportation. “How can someone like Rosy not qualify for reunification and be told they’re not the parent, and then get pressured to sign away their rights to their child?”