By Mark Hallum
When Guatemalan national Yeni Gonzalez-Garcia was apprehended by ICE agents crossing the Arizona border from Mexico sometime in May, she, like many other immigrants, was separated from her three children.
But while Gonzalez-Gracia was detained in a facility located in Eloy, Ariz., her children were shipped over 2,000 miles to Cayuga Centers at 130th Street and Park Avenue in Manhattan where they had not seen their mother in over 46 days.
With the help of a lawyer and advocates, Gonzalez-Garcia was released from the facility June 28 and traveled four days to New York to visit her children and meet with elected officials at a rally in Long Island City Monday night.
Jose Orochena, a New York attorney, went out to Eloy to secure her release and she was reunited with them Tuesday, a day after the rally.
“There are more, these women are still detained and their children are scattered throughout the United States,” Orochena said at the rally, asking for help to provide bonds to other women still in custody. “These are bonds that are $15,000 and they might as well be $15 million… There are hundreds more just in Eloy, Ariz.”
The facility in Eloy strictly enforced a no hugging policy and the mothers were not even allowed to comfort one another, Gonzalez-Garcia said through an interpreter Monday.
“Now there is another obstacle: the red tape associated with the foster home at Cayuga,” Orochena said. “We have to meet all their requirements and if they are not met, they will not release Yeni’s biological children to her.”
Nine drivers volunteered to drive Gonzalez-Garcia from Arizona to New York, since she could not fly without a government-issued ID and the advocates did not want to expose her to ICE on Greyhound or Amtrak, said Julie Schwietert Collazo, who help organized Gonzalez-Garcia’s trip to New York.
“We have… an agency that was created after 9/11 to combat terrorism not to separate women from their children at the border of this country,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said at the Monday rally. “We have a rogue agency under a rogue president, they should both be abolished. We should abolish ICE immediately and we should abolish Donald Trump at the ballot boxes as soon as we can.”
Jessica Ramos, who is running against state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) in the Democratic primary, recalled the days when her family was new to this country from Colombia.
“My mother crossed the border by herself when she was 24. My father was caught in an immigration raid when I was a baby and though I can’t remember that time, I have heard the stories of what a traumatic time it was for my mother and older sister who does remember,” Ramos said.
Ramos called for ICE to be abolished as well as establishing New York as a sanctuary state.
“My family brought me [to the U.S.] when I was 6 months old,” said state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), whose family migrated from Greece. “America should not be tearing babies away from their mother’s arms. We should be embracing everybody. That is what America is, that is what our Statue of Liberty represents.”
Gonzalez-Garcia went with Gianaris Tuesday morning to Cayuga Centers, where she was able to see her children, though they have not been released.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall