At a Border Patrol holding facility in El Paso, Texas, an agent told a Honduran family that one parent would be sent to Mexico while the other parent and their three children could stay in the United States, according to the family. The agent turned to the couple's youngest daughter — 3-year-old Sofia, whom they call Sofi — and asked her to make a choice.
"The agent asked her who she wanted to go with, mom or dad," her mother, Tania, told NPR through an interpreter. "And the girl, because she is more attached to me, she said mom. But when they started to take [my husband] away, the girl started to cry. The officer said, 'You said [you want to go] with mom.' "
Sofi's chest bears the scar of an earlier surgery. Rivas presented evidence from a Mexican health clinic that the 3-year-old girl had suffered a heart attack, a revelation that seemed to stun Immigration Judge Nathan Herbert. The judge said he didn't have the authority to remove the family from MPP but asked the Department of Homeland Security lawyer to take note of Rivas' concerns.
On Thursday, Sofi was examined by a doctor working on contract for DHS, who told Border Patrol agents the girl had a serious heart condition, Rivas said. Tania and Joseph don't remember the doctor's name.
The family fled Honduras after Tania witnessed her mother get killed. Her sister-in-law also was a witness and was later kidnapped, tortured and slain to keep her from testifying. The gang MS-13 then posted a note on the family's door telling them they had 45 minutes to leave, Tania said. That's when the family left to seek asylum in the U.S.
Rep. Veronica Escobar, an El Paso Democrat whose office assisted the family in its efforts to be removed from the MPP program, said she is asking DHS to investigate allegations that the Border Patrol planned to separate the family and asked a 3-year-old girl to pick which parent she would go with.
"It's an outrage, and it's absolutely horrifying that a toddler would be asked to choose between two parents. It was just stunning to me. It's one thing to read about it; it's another thing to actually hear a parent recounting the story firsthand in their own voice," Escobar said.
"We cannot go back to Honduras," Tania said. "We hope that the children could study here because in Honduras there are no opportunities for the children to go to school, for them to grow. We are honest people. We don't want to harm anyone. We just want an opportunity."
This shit is being done in all of our names.
A reckoning is coming.