Forty-nine Brazilian children have been taken to shelters after being separated from their parents while illegally entering the US. The announcement was made by Brazil’s Deputy Consul-General in Houston Felipe Santarosa, who granted an exclusive interview to Empresa Brasil de Comunicação (EBC).
The information was reported by the US government, Santarosa said. A statement from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) names the shelters, but refrains from disclosing their addresses. The children’s nationalities were revealed by the US government.
“The problem with this communication is that it simply shows a table with the name of the institution where a child is; it doesn’t name the child. I’ve been given this rather vague information by a DHS official.”
Brazilian diplomats will seek to find out where these institutions are located and contact them. Santarosa believes it will be a difficult task, as more specific information is lacking.
The consul reported he had learned of eight children in shelters and that this information had come through the contact with people giving support to Brazilians overseas. He added he heard of another child on Wednesday (Jun. 20). All nine cases were reported by relatives.
Santarosa said that their first concern is putting family members in touch. Efforts should include locating the children, visiting them, and checking the conditions they are in. Then, the goal is to establish contact with their families. He went on to note that the government cannot interfere in US legal issues.
“The Brazilian government cannot ask for the release [of children who migrated illegally to the US]. Imagine if a US government official came to Brazil and asked to let an American prisoner go free. You can’t,” he argued. He also mentioned a mother who has been arrested and did not know where her children were.
“We got in contact with the mother, and told her her children were detained. She wasn’t even aware of it; she had been separated from them upon arrival, on the border, and she didn’t know how they were. So we gave her the news that they were OK. And we managed to make a phone call [between mother and children] and it was arranged between the children’s shelter and the mother’s prison unit that they would talk to each other once a week.”
Santarosa added that Brazilians facing similar situations should contact the consulate assistance service with Brazil’s Foreign Ministry.
The separation of families on the US–Mexico border comes as a result of the “zero tolerance” policy implemented by the Donald Trump administration. Illegal immigrants, even those seeking asylum, are arrested and answer for the federal crime of illegal entry. In six weeks, over 2 thousand children were separated from their parents and taken to shelters.