SEATTLE (AP) — Some asylum-seeking parents who have been detained in Washington state after being separated from their children have started to be released from custody, advocates said Wednesday, but it remains unclear when they might see their sons or daughters again.
The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle said it knows of 55 people detained at the U.S.-Mexico border before being separated from their children and transferred to Washington under President Donald Trump's zero-tolerance policy.
An immigration judge released one, Yolany Padilla, a 24-year-old from Honduras, on $8,000 bond from the Northwest Detention Center, a private immigration jail in Tacoma, on Friday — seven weeks after she crossed the border illegally in Hidalgo, Texas. Another was released Monday and three more on Wednesday, the organization said.
Padilla's attorneys told a news conference Wednesday her 6-year-old son remains in federal custody in New York, and it's unclear when the government will release him to her. They declined to provide further details about Padilla's background, citing the sensitivity of her asylum case.
"Now that I'm free, I don't understand why they're not returning him, or why I can't go pick him up," Padilla said. "He's starting to get restless, because he expects me to go to get him, but that hasn't happened and we don't know when it will. The last time we spoke, the call ended in tears."
Padilla is a named plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project has filed challenging the family separations. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has declined to comment on her case.
One of her attorneys, Leta Sanchez, said authorities have been demanding that Padilla go through several hoops before she and the boy are reunited. Those include a background check and resubmitting fingerprints, even though immigration officials have repeatedly taken her fingerprints since her detention.
The administration has been scrambling to reunify the families this week to meet the first of two deadlines set by a federal judge in San Diego who ordered thousands of children be given back to their parents. Scores of children separated from their families at the border were sent to government-contracted shelters or foster care hundreds of miles away from where their parents were detained.
Padilla's son, Jelsin, has been in foster care in New York — where exactly is unclear, but Sanchez said she was told the home is about a 20-minute drive from the Bronx, where he has been attending school at the Cayuga Center for troubled youth.