I recently had the opportunity of helping in a small way with the separated families at the Port Isabel Detention Center in the Rio Grande Valley. When I heard there was a need for attorney volunteers, I contacted my daughter Abigail, who is a staffer in Washington, D.C., for U.S. Congressman Filemon Vela. With their help, I was eventually connected with a nonprofit group out of Austin called Grassroots Leadership.
They were involved in connecting the detained mothers at Port Isabel with attorneys to do interviews and also to represent them in their “credible fear” hearings for their asylum claims.
During the course of two days, I interviewed about 15 women, all from Guatemala and Honduras, except one from Romania.
As I interviewed the women, I was struck most by their demeanors. They were all lovely women who did not seem angry at all, but very sad. They answered my questions fine, until I asked about their children. At that point, each one of them teared up while they explained who their children were, how they had been separated and where they thought they were being held.
The mothers’ stories as to why they were seeking asylum were heart breaking. One mother was repeatedly raped by gangs simply because she was a woman who owned her own business. Law enforcement wouldn’t help because of their corruption and cooperation with the drug lords.