Mother Separated From Family and Detained by ICE Told She Would Be 'Put In the Hole" If She Didn't Stop Crying Over 'Horrible Treatment'

A group of immigrant parents who had been previously separated from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy had been detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for more than a week after arriving at the border, desperate to seek asylum and be reunited with their children, immigration advocates say.

Al Otro Lado, a California-based group offering legal services to immigrants, said that as many as 17 parents are still in ICE custody more than a week after they were initially detained on March 2. As Newsweek previously reported, the parents had came to the U.S. as part of a group of 29 and had been deported after they were separated from their children last year.

While the Trump administration has been working to fulfill a court order to reunify the hundreds of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border last year, Al Otro Lado said separated parents had been let down once again, as these 17 mothers and fathers remained in detention fearing that they would never see their children again.

According to Al Otro Lado, some of the separated mothers who were detained at the Regional Detention Facility in Calexico, California, had also described "horrible treatment" from members of ICE and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

"When Al Otro Lado went to see four of the separated mothers this weekend, all were sobbing from the horrible treatment they received from ICE and CBP," Al Otro Lado said in a statement.

"One mother was accused of lying, and told she should go back to her country. Another was placed in solitary, and told she would be put in 'the hole' if she kept crying. Both have been separated from their children for about a year," the immigration legal services organization said.

In one case, Al Otro Lado said that one of the mothers, a Kekchi speaker, had her child taken away from her and was deported without ever getting an interpreter.

"Now, ICE and CBP have again failed to provide her with an interpreter," Al Otro Lado said. "When she struggled to explain herself in Spanish, the officers mocked her and accused her of lying."

After visiting the four separated mothers, Al Otro Lado shared a video that included translated messages the organization said had come directly from the detained women.

"Keep supporting us," one of the women asked in her message. "It's deeply saddening to be away from my daughter. There's no greater pain than being unable to hug her, kiss her and tell her I love her, and that only a prison separates us. I can't express enough my longing to be by her side.

"We are detained in a room with double security, as if we were criminals," the woman continued. "ICE says, 'it's not punishment. Simply, there's no other place.' Also, they told me 'not to cry' or they'll throw me in solitary confinement."

In another message, a mother who also claims to have been separated from her daughter, said: "I'm desperate. I want to be with my daughter already because she is also in detention. I am frightened that she may attempt to take her life again, which she already tried once," the mother said.

A third mother pleaded for help, saying: "Please help me. I am detained, confined to a room without windows, which is freezing. They've only given us a blanket and old clothes that stink. The officer has treated us rudely and told me that I am a liar."

ICE did not immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment.

Previously, ICE spokesperson Jennifer Elzea told Newsweek that the agency could only comment if asked for details on specific cases. However, Elzea also said that questions regarding any children who had yet to be reunited with family or released to a sponsor in the U.S. must be referred to the Department of Health and Human Services.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services had previously told Newsweek that the department did not comment on matters related to pending or ongoing litigation and suggested that ICE should be contacted for queries related to its operations.

The Trump administration identified at least 2,816 children who were separated from their parents last year as a result of the government's "zero tolerance" immigration policy. Of those children, 2,735 had been either reunited with a parent, taken in by a sponsor or turned 18 and were, as of last month, no longer considered children.

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People demonstrate and call out words of encouragement to detainees held inside the Metropolitan Detention Center after marching to decry Trump administration immigration and refugee policies on June 30, 2018, in Los Angeles. Dozens of families separated under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy still have yet to be reunited. David McNew/Getty
Mother Separated From Family and Detained by ICE Told She Would Be 'Put In the Hole" If She Didn't Stop Crying Over 'Horrible Treatment' | U.S.