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  • Writer's pictureCele León

Hundreds of migrant children and families separated in the US. Arrest and unpaid wages.

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

Aug 4, 2018

By Celestino Barrera A

This was the case of Rosalba S[1], a 20-year-old Guatemalan woman who, after thwarting the forced recruitment of her six-year-old son, was violently assaulted by men from the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13), and later was the victim of police harassment when she reported what had happened. Seeking to find what some call “good luck”, and fleeing violence and a lack of guarantees of freedom, she began her trip, first to Mexico and then on to the United States, without any idea of where she would end up.

This was three months ago, and in all that time, neither good luck nor a safe place has appeared. Upon arriving in the US, the immigration police at the border separated Rosalba from her son moments after she sought them out asking for asylum.

My child was taken to a shelter where they say he’ll be protected and have all that he needs. And they tell me that, without humanity, as if I had never existed, as if he does not know that I need him. And they brought me here, to this jail. Now we are prisoners, isolated; we came for help to the country that calls itself the country of freedom, and they handed us jail, like criminals. – Rosalba says.

Rosalba is terrified to know that once the children enter the shelter system there is no protocol for reuniting her with her son, nor is there a clear process to determine if he was separated from his parents, family members, or other individuals, which makes her think about the unimaginable possibility of losing her son in a foreign country that treats them like criminals.

These family separations have given rise to a social firestorm sweeping throughout the country that has been countered by judicial and police institutions with more detention and persecution of immigrants, even in sanctuary cities such as Washington, DC, where ICE police agents have arrested at least twelve undocumented persons, as well as more than 600 citizens who have been victims of police arrests for their participation in democratic mobilizations against this policy of segregation.

We, as United Workers (Trabajadores Unidos) of Washington, DC, defending and building a society based on social justice that is inclusive, respectful of nature, and its biodiversity, human rights and values, reject all forms of segregation whether it is called family separation, gentrification, labor exploitation or racism. That is why we join the firestorm called freedom and respect for family dignity, and against the criminalization of poverty.

We also condemn this persecution that increases the vulnerability of labor rights for day laborers, to the extent in which several employers use this situation to their advantage by calling ICE to arrest or intimidate workers, instead of paying them their legal wages.


[1]The name “Rosalba” used here is not the real name of the victim, who refused to give her legal name for fear of reprisals.

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