Immigration

Two Guatemalan Mothers Separated From Children Describe Hellacious Journeys to U.S.

Christina received a Bible in the GEO detention center in Aurora, which she opened to her favorite passage.
Christina received a Bible in the GEO detention center in Aurora, which she opened to her favorite passage. Sara Fleming
On Friday, July 20, Julia and Christina watched fifty undocumented parents who were detained with them in the GEO Group's immigrant detention facility in Aurora head out to Port Isabel, Texas, where they would finally see their children again. The federal deadline to reunify all eligible families who were separated at the border was approaching.

But Julia and Christina, two mothers from Guatemala who were separated from their kids at the U.S./Mexico border for over two months, had to wait to see their children.

The two women, who spoke to Westword on the condition of anonymity, weren’t going to Texas because their kids had already been released and were living with family members in Florida and Tennessee.

“Because their children had been previously released, their children were deemed to have been reunited,” says Astrid Lockwood, Julia and Christina’s lawyer. Lockwood, an attorney with the Federal Practice Group based in Washington, D.C., is representing twenty clients who were detained in GEO.

A mother and an immigrant from Mexico herself, Lockwood took up the case of a mom who had been separated from her child in June and ended up reunifying them. It was only the seventh such reunification to happen in the U.S. at that point. Word got around, and other detainees began begging her for help.

“After a while it just became personal,” Lockwood says. “I had this ability to be able to help them, and I’ve been able to build successful cases now for revery single client that I’ve represented."

It took special effort to get Julia and Christina out of GEO. Because of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s ruling that domestic violence and gang violence are not grounds to seek asylum, their fears of returning to Guatemala were found “not credible” in their preliminary hearings. In a near-unprecedented effort, Lockwood was able to get those rulings overturned so that Casa de Paz, a Denver nonprofit that takes in immigrants released from GEO, could post bond for them.

Fearing for their lives, Christina and her children fled to join her husband in America earlier than expected.

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On Wednesday, August 1, a Casa De Paz volunteer posted bond at GEO, and another volunteer picked up Julia and Christina from the detention center that evening. Casa de Paz is paying for bond and travel expenses for all separated parents released from GEO. Sarah Jackson, Casa de Paz’s founder, recently traveled to Port Isabel to make sure the fifty parents who were sent there were actually reunified with their children.

At Casa de Paz, Julia and Christina were greeted by a host of volunteers, a warm meal, and the chance to pick up a change of clothes and travel necessities. These are their stories, as they recounted them in Spanish.
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Sara Fleming is a freelance writer and formal editorial fellow at Westword. She covers a wide variety of stories about local politics and communities. A born-and-raised Coloradan, when she's not exploring Denver, she's on a mission to visit every mountain town in the state.
Contact: Sara Fleming