AUSTIN — Earlier this month, asylum seeker Melvin Griselda Cruz Lopez was compelled by ICE officials to sign an unknown document. When advocates at Grassroots Leadership received a copy of the document, it contained a paragraph warning that “any willful failure or refusal on your part [...] or any conspiracy or actions to prevent your removal [...] may subject you to criminal prosecution.”
Migrant activists across the country who have fought their own and others’ deportations have been increasingly detained and deported under the Trump Administration. There have also been cases of immigrant activists seeking asylum who were criminally charged after fighting their deportation.
This threat comes as criminal prosecutions of migrants for entry and re-entry at the border have also increased dramatically since former Attorney General Sessions’ zero tolerance policy was announced in April 2018. Although the volume of mass family separations at the border has decreased, these prosecutions have stayed at nearly their peak, according to data obtained from TRAC. Human rights reports have shown that many of those prosecuted for entry and reentry include asylum seekers like Griselda, contrary to international law.
“This a disturbing tactic being used by the Trump administration in order to silence migrants from speaking up for their rights,” said Sofia Casini, immigration organizer at Grassroots Leadership. “ICE is trying to silence not only Griselda, but the community fighting for her. So many have already been criminalized for fighting for their right to life. We can’t let Griselda become another statistic.”
Despite retaliation, Griselda continues to speak out about her need to be reunited with her daughter and receive medical care for a head injury she sustained a year ago in the Laredo Detention Center. There, she took a medication that caused her to hit her head upon losing consciousness. A year of visits to medical staff show ICE and private prison corporation CoreCivic are unwilling to do what is needed to address Griselda’s condition. ICE continues to deny her the therapy or surgery ordered by an outside specialist while Griselda remains in pain, suffering over a year of migraines and being unable to stand the sunlight.
“I’m only searching for my right to freedom,” wrote Griselda in a letter dated February 24. “Enough is enough. Freedom for all the mothers who are separated from our children.”
Sofia Casini, firstname.lastname@example.org, 512-499-8111
Bethany Carson, email@example.com, 512-499-8111