Sales, who entered the United States illegally on May 30, made a difficult choice: She refused to sign a paper agreeing that if she were deported, her son Yaiser would accompany her back to Guatemala. She wanted to give him the chance, she said, to pursue asylum in the United States even if she is sent back. For two months ,sales was separated from her 14-year old son by U.S. border officials
On July 25, they were finally brought back together at a facility near El Paso, Texas. The reunion was happy but brief.
Because of her refusal to sign the papers, she and her son were separated again after just two hours together, and he was sent back to the Florida children’s facility where he had previously been held.
The decision that kept them separated also gave her son a better chance of being allowed to stay in the U.S. legally, a Reuters analysis of data from the courts’ Executive Office for Immigration Review suggests. After being reunified that day in El Paso, parents and children were loaded on a bus and asked to sign papers agreeing to be deported with their children. Those who refused to sign, including Sales, were led off the bus, according to interviews with four detainees and a court filing, leaving their children behind.
Sales said that after speaking to Yaiser for two hours on the bus, she realized she could not sign papers that might forfeit her son’s chance to remain in the United States and study instead of returning to Guatemala, where they were unsafe and Yaiser had fewer educational opportunities.
“He told me that he wanted to stay, that he didn’t want to go back, but that he wanted me to stay with him…. I felt sad,” Sales told Reuters by phone from the immigration detention facility where she is being held. “The simple truth is he wants a better life.”
During their reunion on the bus, Yaiser told his mother he wanted to stay in the U.S. to study and make her proud, Sales said. But he also told her he hoped she could stay with him because “it would be safer.”
Yaiser’s attorney, Jan Peter Weiss, visited him at the Florida facility on Saturday. “He is very sad,” said Weiss. “He asked about his mother every other sentence. ‘Is my mother alright? What do you think is going to happen to her?’”
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, the law firm representing Sales, declined to comment for this story.
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