A single mom from Guatemala who has been separated from her 5-year-old daughter for four months because of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy has been transferred from Nevada to a Texas detention center and could be reunified with the girl on Thursday.
Brian Ramsey, an attorney who represents Olivia Aguilar Bamaca, also told The Nevada Independent that he is seeking a new “credible fear interview” for his client. The interview — which she did not “pass” the first time around, possibly because it was cut short, Ramsey said — could establish a basis for her to stay in the United States longer to pursue a claim for asylum.
Ramsey said the government will be responsible for the expense of bringing the girl and her uncle from Florida to a detention center in Dilley, Texas, where they will be reunified with the mother.
“The child will literally go from holding her Uncle’s hand to holding Olivia’s hand,” he said via email.
Barring changes to the Flores agreement, a settlement that limits the amount of time immigrant children can be detained, Aguilar Bamaca and her daughter should be able to return to their sponsor — the uncle — after spending 20 days in detention, Ramsey said.
Asked for comment or details about the reunification plan, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe said Tuesday that she couldn’t comment further on the case.
According to Ramsey, who represented 12 other people who were detained through the zero tolerance policy and housed at an ICE facility in Pahrump, Aguilar Bamaca was one of 203 people who still remain separated from their children because of “other circumstances,” more than two months after “zero tolerance” was cancelled, and more than a month after a large number of separated families were reunified. The government asserted in a recent hearing that she was the only person of that group of 203 who had not waived her right to be reunited with her child.
Ramsey said he sought assurances in court on Friday that Aguilar Bamaca would be considered a member of the “class” of parents who were subject to zero-tolerance family separation, and that she would be covered by various recent court orders that have been favorable to the immigrant parents.
“The Judge then echoed this stipulation,” Ramsey wrote. “This means that the preliminary injunction of the Sabraw court enjoins the government from deporting Olivia and her baby until all the issues are settled, or until she expresses a desire to return to Guatemala and the government seeks and gets special permission from the court.”
Ramsey said he sought a new credible fear interview with U.S. Customs and Immigration Services because he believes that in Aguilar Bamaca’s initial telephonic interview, the call was cut off “before Olivia had a chance to describe the attacks and threats that she had suffered.” If authorities agree that she has a reasonable case to make, Aguilar Bamaca would be able to stay in the U.S. with her brother and her daughter while her asylum case proceeds through immigration court.
Aguilar Bamaca arrived at the border on May 11 and was subsequently separated from her daughter, who was sent to a shelter in New York and eventually ended up with her uncle, who lives in Florida. It was a month before she knew where the girl was.
“I decided to leave my country out of necessity. I’m a single mother. I don’t have anything in my country — no house, nothing. I work on my own to support my daughter,” she said in a recent phone interview from the Henderson Detention Center. “Back in Guatemala, there is no work. There’s a lot of violence. You can’t leave your house in peace.”
In August, ICE transferred her to Arizona in preparation to deport her without her daughter. While some immigrant parents have agreed to be sent home without their children, Aguilar Bamaca did not want to return to Guatemala without the girl.
“She’s the only child I have. She’s my life, and I can’t leave her in this country,” Aguilar Bamaca said. “I pray to God that he gives me the opportunity to stay in this country with my daughter, but if that’s not God’s will, I’ll take my daughter with me.”
From the Editor