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WTOP follows the story of a mother and son who were separated for more than a month because of 'zero-tolerance' immigration policy

Written by: Federal Practice Group
Written by: Federal Practice Group

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(WASHINGTON) — Arriving nearly one minute before her 7-year-old son stepped into the terminal at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., Brenda rushed to embrace Kevin, after having been apart for a month and four days, a separation long enough for emotions to run high for this family reunification.

“I couldn’t take one more minute without being able to be here with him,” said Brenda, who asked that her last name not be used.

Her attorney, Astrid Lockwood, interpreted for her.

“Today I feel like my heart was returned to me,” Brenda said.

However, Brenda faced a number of challenges before she could be reunited with her son.

Towards the end of May, Brenda fled from Santa Tecla, El Salvador, to the U.S.-Mexico border with Kevin after she says she was threatened by two rival gangs in the area. When the pair arrived at the southwest border of Arizona, Brenda said she asked for asylum and was immediately apprehended by U.S. officials.

Officials soon separated Brenda from her son and each was sent to a different facility.

Kevin was placed in a shelter facility in Miami for young children, while Brenda was sent to three different facilities. She was even mistakenly sent to an all-male facility in Arizona, Lockwood said.

However, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said the facility houses both men and women. It is still unclear exactly where Brenda was detained and under what conditions.

During their time apart, Brenda and Kevin had difficulty communicating, Lockwood said.

“I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. All I could think about was where he was, how he was,” Brenda said.

On June 21, a federal immigration judge authorized Brenda to be released on an immigration bond, an ICE spokesperson told ABC News. Five days later, Brenda was released from ICE custody after posting bond.

Her case is pending in the immigration courts, according to ICE.

Brenda is one of many undocumented immigrants who have been separated from their children at the border after seeking asylum in the U.S., a result of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.

After the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed that nearly 2,300 children were separated from their families, a wave of immigrant advocacy groups and social justice leaders mobilized support from thousands. Facing an overwhelming backlash, President Trump signed an executive order last week to put an end to the policy.

However, a spokesman for the Amercian Civil Liberties Union remained unconvinced, saying: “The devil is in the details.”

“This crisis will not abate until each and every single child is reunited with his or her parent,” said Anthony D. Romero, the group’s executive director.

The ACLU was one of the first groups to take legal action against the Trump administration in Ms. L v. ICE earlier this year, after a mother from the Congo seeking asylum and her 7-year-old daughter were separated.

They were reunited in March.

On Tuesday, a federal judge rejected the government’s request to dismiss the ACLU’s case and ruled the challenge can proceed after the group filed for class certification.

Moreover, the group has collected more than 226,000 signatures for a petition to end family separation and numerous donations from supporters.

On Friday evening, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said families will be detained together during immigration proceedings.

“To comply with the Ms. L injunction barring parents in DHS custody from being separated from their children, the Government will not separate families but detain families together during the pendency of immigration proceedings when they are apprehended at or between ports of entry,” the DOJ said in a statement.

Lockwood told ABC News that Brenda’s next steps in this process are to complete a “motion of change of venue” to the Baltimore court. If the motion is granted, their cases can be consolidated and heard together where they will continue to fight for their asylum, said Lockwood.

“I feel strong, I feel positive now, now that I have I have my child,” Brenda said. “I know that it’s not going to be easy to fight the asylum case but I have faith in God that everything will turn out alright.”

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