Three-year-old held alone in detention

A three-year-old El Salvador boy was held at a family detention center in Pennsylvania for three days without his mother, according to his 21 year old mother and her attorney. Immigration lawyers interceded on behalf of the boy after he was held between Wednesday and Saturday at the Berks County Residential Center while his mother was in hospital after having been apprehended crossing the border.

The Berks Center is one of a trio of such facilities where mothers and children are supposed to be detained together by immigration officials, with the intention of keeping children with their parents while awaiting asylum hearings or court dates, yet the boy was held on his own under the supervision of staff at the detention center.

Carol Ann Donohoe, the lawyer representing the two, called the idea of a three-year-old being held without his mother and not able to understand where she was “outrageous”. Officials from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that they would review the case on Saturday but that the boy had 24 hour care, was safe and had playtime. Donohoe, however, claims that the boy has suffered emotional trauma as a result of being separated from his mother, is having tantrums, kicking doors and not eating.

Finally, later on Saturday, the boy was picked up by his grandmother, but Donohoe, who has filed a number of complaints, says he should have been released into his grandmother’s care immediately, not after three days.