Angelica Rebeca Gonzalez-Garcia says she was wished a “Happy Mother’s Day” by one of the immigration agents who took her daughter away on May 11th and sent her, without Gonzalez-Garcia’s knowledge, several states away. CNN has captured their reunion after 55 days; “heartbreaking” has been used a lot over the past 500+ days, but there truly is no other word.
In her lawsuit against the federal government, Gonzalez-Garcia claims that she was seeking asylum with her daughter after traveling over 2,000 miles from Guatemala to flee domestic violence. She was then transferred to Colorado while unknowingly her daughter was sent to Texas; she said that when she finally connected with her daughter over the phone after a week, her daughter told her that she was running a high fever and had been attacked by another child. Gonzalez-Garcia’s affidavit is an account of unimaginable cruelty by official United States government employees, which is worth reading in full. Here is an excerpt describing the separation process:
Shortly after entry into the United States, I was surrounded by what I now know to be Border Patrol officers. Approximately three cars surrounded us. The officers instructed my daughter and me to take off our jewelry, socks, and shoes and laces. We complied.
The officers placed my daughter and me in the back of a pick-up truck. They drove us about 1/2 hour until we reached a stopping point. More people entered the car. The Officers then switched us to another car. The second drive took about 45 minutes or so.
When we arrived at the second stop, I was placed in a room with windows and cement floors. My understanding is this facility was in Arizona. Approximately 30-40 women and children stayed in this room. We had one mattress that four people had to sleep on, including my daughter and me. The locked room had a toilet and walls. The toilet had a partial wall and people laying on the floor could see. My daughter felt embarrassed to pee in that room with all those people. The guards were mostly men and could monitor through the windows, as well as enter and exit the room with a key. Although we left with clothes in a bad, the Officers took the clothes. When we were left in the room we were told not to complain or bang on the walls because we would be there for “four days at most” and that I would then be deported.
On May 10, 2018, the day after our arrest, Officers came into the room and told me they intended to take my daughter away from me. The Officers told us that the law with minors was “done” and again said I was going to be deported. Most devastating of all, the Officers said I would never see my daughter again. When the Officers told me this, I felt like collapsing and dying. I cannot express the pain and fear I felt at that point. My daughter was only seven years old and she was much too young to be taken from me. When I asked why the Officers said that I had “endangered” her by bringing her here. They told me to sign a consent form to take my daughter, but it did not matter whether or not I signed, because they were going to take her either way.
The officer came into the cell and called my daughter and me into the big office space. They told me that if I did not sign the paper they would still take my daughter from me, and they also said it would be worst for me. During this same conversation one of the officers asked me “In Guatemala do they celebrate mother’s day?” When I answered yes he said, “then Happy Mother’s Day” because the next Sunday was Mother’s day. I lowered my head so that my daughter could not see the tears forming in my eyes. That particular act of cruelty astonished me then as it does now. I could not understand why they hated me so much, or wanted to hurt me so much.
The next morning, at five a.m., the Officers made me bathe my daughter and put oversized clothes on her, as well as put a ponytail in her hair. We were in a trailer-like vehicle with three shower stalls. My daughter and I were in one and there was another mother with her child in another stall. My body was shaking and I felt like dying. Instead, I tried to be strong for my daughter. I even remember trying to laugh so my daughter would not be scared. I told her that she did not need to cry and that it would only be a couple of days that they would take her. I dressed her in the stall and then there was a little room where I brushed her hair.
We waited in that room until all of the kids had been bathed, and then they took all of us into a big office room. Then they told us that would be as far as we would go with our children and they made all of the children stand in a straight line. All of the kids were given the same jacket, paints, and oversized shirt to wear. The uniforms were dark blue but had no identifying information such as a number or facility name. The youngest child in line was about 5 years old and the oldest was about 12 years old. There were approximately 10 kids and the youngest ones were crying. My daughter looked like she wanted to cry; I held back my tears so she would not. I had no idea where they were taking her, they only told me they were going to take her to a shelter. The children were lead out of the building in a single line. All of the mothers were told to return to their cells. Only two women from my cell were separated from their children. We sat next to each other in the cell and cried together and asked God to give us strength.
I still cannot stop crying over this incident. Nothing can prepare a person for the pain of watching their child be forcibly removed from them. Heart wrenching and devastating are the only words I have. It is not clear that I can recover fully from this incident.
In the video, CNN reports, she can be heard sobbing:
You know that I missed you. You are the gift that God gave me. I’ll never leave you alone again. Never. Forgive me my darling for leaving you alone. Forgive me. I didn’t want to.
In a hearing on Friday, a lawyer for the Department of Justice requested more time to comply with last week’s order by federal judge Dana Sabraw to reunite children with families within 30 days and children under the age of five by Tuesday. In this first week, the government reported that only 86 parents of nearly 3,000 children have been matched. The government’s own figures have been spotty–the whereabouts of some of the 101 children under five were unclear, and Judge Sabraw ordered precise data on all 101 kids by Saturday night. The government also admitted it has lost track of at least 38 parents–19 deported, and 19 more released from detention.
As reported in transcript from NBC News, they made the bullshit argument that the court is being unclear about its order to “truncate the [vetting] process,” which is typically used to connect children who have arrived at the border alone, to which the judge replied that there’s no reason there should be a vetting process, since the government was responsible for splitting up children in the first place. They are now doing cheek swabs.
When Sabraw asked Trump administration attorney Sarah Fabian whether she could work over the weekend to help meet the reunification deadline, she said she had “dog-sitting responsibilities.”