A three-year-old Honduran girl named Sofia, whose parents call her Sofi, was reportedly asked to make a choice between which one of parents she could stay with, and which parent should be deported.
According to NPR, Sofi was at the U.S. Border Patrol station in El Paso, Texas with her mother, father, and her siblings when an ICE agent informed her that one of her parents could stay in the United States with her and her siblings, but one would be deported to Mexico.
“And the girl, because she is more attached to me, she said mom,” Sofi’s mother, Tania, said through her interpreter. “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.’ ”
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), who has been assisting the family, denounced the alleged actions of ICE in making a three-year-old choose which parent should be sent away.
“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.
The concept of a girl named Sofi making a choice about which one of her family members she could stay with is eerily similar to the concept of the 1979 novel Sophie’s Choice, in which a girl arriving at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp during the Holocaust is forced to choose which one of her children would die by gassing, and which would continue to live.
As the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) stipulate, families who have been detained coming across the border are required to wait in dangerous Mexican border towns, like Juárez, while their cases are pending in immigration courts. The practice of the U.S. making asylum seekers remain in dangerous situations dates back to at least 1939, when 254 Jewish asylum seekers fleeing Nazi Germany were denied entry into the U.S. and later died during the Holocaust.
“MPP will help restore a safe and orderly immigration process, decrease the number of those taking advantage of the immigration system, and the ability of smugglers and traffickers to prey on vulnerable populations, and reduce threats to life, national security, and public safety, while ensuring that vulnerable populations receive the protections they need,” the Department of Homeland Security states on its website.
However, as NPR reported, Sofi’s family has requested an exemption from MPP due to a heart condition Sofi has that resulted in the toddler having a heart attack and having to undergo emergency surgery. The family — which includes a six-year-old son and a nine-year-old daughter — had been fighting separation, given Sofi’s health. The family especially didn’t want to go back to Honduras, as they had recently been victims of gang violence at the hands of MS-13:
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.
This week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced that it was suing to block the Trump administration’s effective ending of asylum, in which anyone who passes through another country before coming to the United States to seek asylum would be banned from protections for asylum seekers.
“The Trump administration is trying to unilaterally reverse our country’s legal and moral commitment to protect those fleeing danger,” ACLU Immigrant Rights Project deputy director Lee Gelernt said. “This new rule is patently unlawful and we will sue swiftly.”
(Featured image: Fibonacci Blue/Creative Commons)
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.