Local Law Firms say Problems at the Border still not solved
Families trying to cross the border into the United States from Mexico have run into their share of troubles, from the work it takes to become a US citizen to the threat of being separated from their children at the border. The latter has some law firms in Michiana working as defense counsel for immigrant families who are trying to reunite or fight deportation. Those attorneys said even though former President Donald Trump signed an order ending the family separation policy, there is still work to be done.
"My mother came as an immigrant because she saw my grandfather working here," said Rudy Monterrosa, an attorney who overseeing several immigration cases. "He told her about how great the United States was and actually petitioned for my mother to be here. That's how she came to the US. On the other hand, my father was like these parents that came from El Salvador. My father came here because it was the beginning of a civil war, and things were starting to happen there that would put him at risk of losing his life."
Monterrosa said there are two types of immigrants coming to the United States, those looking for better opportunities than in their home countries and those fleeing violence or persecution in their home countries. Even with the Trump administration ending the family separation policy at the border, Monterrosa said the damage was already done.
"The government did a poor job of identifying which families were the ones that were separated," Monterrosa said. "So, it's estimated that today we still have about 600 or more families that are still separated from their children."
Other legal advisors who work closely with immigrant families through this process, like National Immigrant Justice Center's Associate Director of Legal Services Lisa Koop, said the process is long and has taken its toll on the families involved.
"To this day, we represent a mother who remains in jail in Texas, separated from two of her children," Koop said. "Watching parents go through that experience is excruciating, and in that case, the mother's ten-year-old daughter has begun to believe that her mother intentionally abandoned her, and she has become increasingly reluctant to speak to her mother on the phone."
President Joe Biden has worked to bring about change in the first days of his administration. He signed numerous executive orders that have undone a number of Trump Administration policies like the Border Wall and the Muslim Travel Ban. Those are both gone. Biden also introduced legislation that would focus deportation less on low level criminals and more so on those who pose a threat to national security. He also said he wants to suspend all deportations for the next 100 days. All of these were things Koop and Monterrosa both said were steps in the right direction, but they hoped he could do more.
"First of all, we need to adopt a policy that we will, never again, separate families," Monterrosa said. "I believe that's heartless, and that's cruel, and that's not what the United States stands for."
"For the parents who were deported, we need a path for them to return to the United States to reunify and seek immigration protection," Koop said.
Monterrosa said even with a concentrated effort from the White House to fix the problems at the border, it could be years before the family separation issues are fully rectified.