Over and over again, we hear horrific stories from the Southern Border where innocent children have been separated from their parents by the Trump administration. It’s not often though that you get to put a face to a name. In this case you can. His name is Byron, and he is a 9-year-old Guatemalan boy who has been separated from his parents in jail-like detention camps for over 9 months now. An American family, named the Sewells, has been trying to take temporary custody of Byron but they’ve been met with nothing but roadblocks along the way.
In this week’s episode of KrassenCast, available now on both iTunes and Youtube, Brian and Ed Krassenstein interviewed the attorney for the Sewells, Ricardo de Anda of the de Anda Law Firm. The story of Byron and his father David is a heartfelt one of two devout Christians looking to escape gang violence in their home country, seeking asylum in a country that they thought would welcome both of them and their religion with open arms. Because of policies implemented by the Trump administration, however, David was separated from Byron through an apparent process of coercion.
David, 27 years-old, decided to take his son Byron, 8-years-old at the time, and flee to America after a gang, called the Mara-18, had violently assaulted him and threatened Byron after he refused to give up his religion and join the gang himself. Upon his refusal, David, the son of a pastor, was taken from his car one day on his way to work. He was tied up, hit over the head and then stabbed and cut multiple times with a knife. He was told that Byron would be next.
After this occurred, David decided to take Byron and make the 1600 mile trek to the American border, figuring that America, which is a country made up of Christian values, would help protect him and his son. He was wrong.
When David and Byron made it to the U.S. border, the unthinkable happened; Byron was taken from David. What happened next is beyond fathomable.
“The Border officer told me that if I persisted in my asylum claim they would have to separate Byron and I,” David explained through an interpreter in a court affidavit. “He told me that government rules would not allow for me to be released while I asked for asylum, that I would be held for at least two years while my asylum claim was heard by a judge and that I would be separated from Byron during that time.He told me that if I asked for asylum, Byron would be placed for adoption because he could not stay with me in adult detention center. The officer further told me that I could avoid being separated from Byron only if I signed the document in front of me which he said would allow for us to be deported together. Otherwise, he said I would be held and Byron taken from me and put up for adoption.I felt crushed with fear and Byron began to cry.”
David had to make a tough choice. Should he sign the document and be sent back to Guatemala with Byron, or should he refuse to sign and risk losing Byron for the rest of his life? He chose the former, but instead of being deported back to his home country with his 8-year-old son, David was deported by himself, and Byron remained in US immigrant detention centers ever since.
That’s when the Sewell family got involved. Working with Ricardo de Anda, an asylum attorney who is working pro-bono, Holly Sewell and her husband decided to try and take temporary custody of Byron, in order to get him out of the caged environment and into a loving family.
Unfortunately as de Anda told us on KrassenCast, there is no precedent for cases like David and Byron’s.
“In David’s case, there is nobody [in the United States] to take Byron, de Anda explained. “I have clients, who say, ‘I’ll take the risk. I won’t let my young cousin remain in detention,’ but at least that young cousin has somebody who qualifies (as being legally able to take custody of the child in the U.S.). In David’s case, and now we are talking the great majority of the 10,000+ children that are in detention, there is no blood relative (in the U.S.), and so they are stuck in detention costing us lots of bucks.”
Ricardo de Anda and the Sewell family have been fighting in the courts, with permission from David, to try and convince the courts to give them temporary custody of Byron until David can legally assert his asylum claim.
“David happens to have a rock-solid asylum claim,” de Anda argues. “It’s basic religious persecution.”
Meanwhile, Byron is currently in his fourth detention facility in 9-months. While the Sewells wish to care for Byron on their own dime, U.S. taxpayers are paying between $775 – $1200 per day for each child that remains in detention.
The entire interview with Ricardo de Anda, where he also talks about the difference between Trump and Obama policies on immigration, can be heard in Episode 4 of the KrassenCast: ‘How Trump’s Impeachment Could Unfold & Exposing His Child Separation Policies’, now available on iTunes, Youtube and other podcast providers. It can also be heard below:
This is Byron. He was separated as a result of the zero tolerance policy and has remained in detention for 7 months. He deserves a warm, loving home in which to await his case but isn't allowed. Here is our family's story: @RAICESTEXAS pic.twitter.com/L641si9RMF
— Holly sewell (@sewell_holly) December 13, 2018