EL PASO, Texas - Dozens of people gathered in downtown El Paso to protest policies practiced by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
Annunciation House hosted the event with the hope of convincing ICE to stop separating undocumented minors from their parents while they are being detained and prosecuted.
"This practice of separating parents from children is a practice that is going to and which has been very difficult to get confirmation on," Annunciation House director Ruben Garcia said.
Event organizers demanded the immediate supervised release of all parents who have been forcibly separated from their minor children.
Annunciation House showed evidence that ICE has implemented a policy whereby children are separated from their parents to allow ICE to detain and prosecute the parent. When a child is separated from their parents, the parent is placed in a jail to await prosecution and after their trial, transferred to an ICE detention facility. The child is turned over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which then places the child in a detention facility for unaccompanied minors.
Annunciation House officials claim that on Thursday, a mother from El Salvador going by the alias of Ana was separated from her 13-year-old son, won her release after the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee raised $7,500 so she could be released on bail.
Ana claimed that during the months she spent in jail, no one would tell her anything about her child nor allow her to speak with him on the phone. Ana said ICE accused her of trafficking minors and that it was months before she was able to speak with her son, taken to another state.
Out on bond, Ana has to wear an ankle monitor. Her attorney, Sergio Garcia, claims her rights were violated. "We have laws in place and one of the laws we have is the law of asylum. Anyone who is escaping violence or seeking refuge is entitled to make a claim and seek the protection of our laws," Garcia said.
"We do hear about this pretty routinely across the Borderland," Annunciation House legal coordinator Taylor Levy said. "This is a systematic problem that is something that we have seen really increase in the past year especially."
Garcia told ABC-7 he is representing four parents facing the same situation as Ana.
"This should absolutely never happen," Levy said. "There is no excuse whatsoever to ever take a minor child from their parents for coming to the United States to seek asylum."
ABC-7 tried to speak with ICE, but the agency has not returned our calls.
Last week, Attorney General Jeff Session moved to clarify who qualifies for asylum and whether they get a hearing in court. Sessions said the crime is clogging the courts with false claims and keeping real cases from being heard. In a speech in October, he said he was determined to cut down on fraud. "The system is being gamed, there no doubt about it," Sessions said.