Parents held at an Aurora ICE detention facility under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy are being moved to Texas in hopes of reuniting with their children, immigration attorneys confirmed.
Pro-bono attorneys at the Federal Practice Group legal team said they received an email Friday from a Colorado immigration advocacy group notifying them that Immigration and Customs Enforcement plans to transfer parents separated at the border from their children to a facility in Port Isabel, Texas.
According to the email, ICE is transferring people who have received their notice to appear and have been placed in court proceedings.
A spokesman for ICE could not be reached for comment.
Matt Holohan, a Denver intellectual property attorney who has been volunteering his time to help the detainees, heard from the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network on Thursday that his two clients at the Aurora detention center could be sent to an ICE facility in Texas to reunite with their kids.
“This morning I got an email from somebody who had tried to call one of my clients to set up a conference for her case and was just told she wasn’t there anymore,” Holohan said. “I, as the attorney, wasn’t notified of anything.”
Holohan confirmed that his second client remained at the Aurora facility when he spoke to him on the phone Friday morning. The client said he was disappointed because he was told he wouldn’t be going to Texas.
“Over the course of the day, I was trying to figure out what was going on,” Holohan said. “I spoke with somebody at ICE who said there was a records error that had excluded him from the transfer, but that they were going to figure it out. Once again, it was me reaching out to the government as opposed to the government reaching out to me.”
The client still in Aurora was fortunate, Holohan said, because the Central American man was able to speak to his 9-year-old son twice a week by phone.
Holohan is unsure how he is going to get in contact with the client who is, apparently, headed to Texas or may already be there.
“It’s very much mixed emotions because the number one priority with these parents is being with their children, so that’s very good,” he said. “But at the same time, they have ongoing legal proceedings. My responsibility as an attorney is to make sure they’re fully protected in their legal proceedings, and I feel that is being rendered difficult to do by the way this is being conducted. It’s disorganized and chaotic.”
Earlier in the week, The Denver Post asked how many parents separated from their children remained at the Aurora detention center and ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said he had no updates.
Previously, Rusnok confirmed to The Post that the Aurora ICE facility held 50 parents separated from their children at the border under the “zero tolerance” policy.
Some of those in custody crossed the border, were apprehended and are being prosecuted for illegal entry under federal criminal law. Others were apprehended closer to the border and are in the process of being deported. Another group came to the border seeking asylum and haven’t been prosecuted, but remain separated from their children.
Members of the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network have been working with the detained parents. Some parents know where their children are being detained and have been able to speak with them, but when a Denver immigration attorney last spoke to The Post at the end of June, she said many had no idea where their children were located in the U.S.
Trump signed an executive order last month declaring an end to separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
A federal judge in San Diego initially set a July 10 deadline for reuniting the youngest children with their parents and a July 26 deadline for older children.
Astrid Lockwood, an immigration attorney with the Federal Practice Group, had about a dozen clients — all mothers — separated from their children at the Aurora facility. When she went to the facility Friday to see how many had been moved, she said ICE officials wouldn’t tell her. She asked to speak with all her clients so she could determine who who was in Aurora and who was in Texas. Only one of her clients was available at the Colorado facility.
Lockwood is heartbroken that she doesn’t know what will happen to her clients once they arrive in Texas.
“That’s the worst part,” Lockwood said. “I am going to be reaching out immediately to the Texas center, but I don’t expect much.”
Lockwood praised the Aurora ICE facility for being open and communicative with immigration attorneys as they tried to work with the detainees.
“But now that they’re being moved, I don’t know what the government wants to do,” Lockwood said. “I have no idea, even though I’m the attorney.”