A mother of an infant, detained at the border for entering the U.S. illegally, says she was separated from her baby daughter while she was breastfeeding, CNN reports. Natalia Cornelio, the attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, said the baby was taken away by federal authorities in a detention center in McAllen Texas, and the unnamed Honduran woman was handcuffed when she resisted.
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Since the Trump administration launched a zero-tolerance policy for anyone caught crossing the border illegally last month, charging nearly every adult caught at the border with a federal misdemeanor, around 500 children have been separated from their families. That number may be even higher, at more than 650, according to The Boston Globe. Miguel A. Noreras, a public defender in McAllen, told CNN that some parents are told their children will be bathed, and then are taken away, never to be seen again.
“The government is essentially torturing people by doing this,” Cornelio said. “It’s really hard to look in the eye of a mother or father who would plead for you — help me get my child back.”
reports that these children are often placed in foster care homes, and only some foster parents know where the children’s parents are being detained. Other children are held in shelters originally designed for minors who illegally crossed the border without their families. And other times, officials try to place the children with another relative in the United States. Many parents are faced with a total lack of information about where their children are, or if they ever will be reunited with them.
The Trump administration has made it clear this brutal policy is designed to deter people from illegally crossing the border. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has addressed what will happen to children in these cases. “So, if you cross the border unlawfully, even a first offense, we’re going to prosecute you,” Sessions told the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies, according to CNN. “If you’re smuggling a child, we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law. If you don’t want your child to be separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally.”