Cleaning Toilets, Following Rules: A Migrant Child’s Days in Detention

.. Adan Galicia Lopez, 3, was separated from his mother for four months.
.. Do not misbehave. Do not sit on the floor. Do not share your food. Do not use nicknames. Also, it is best not to cry. Doing so might hurt your case.

Lights out by 9 p.m. and lights on at dawn, after which make your bed according to the step-by-step instructions posted on the wall. Wash and mop the bathroom, scrubbing the sinks and toilets. Then it is time to form a line for the walk to breakfast.

.. one of more than 100 government-contracted detention facilities for migrant children around the country that are a rough blend of boarding school, day care center and medium security lockup.

.. The facility’s list of no-no’s also included this: Do not touch another child, even if that child is your hermanito or hermanita — your little brother or sister.

Leticia had hoped to give her little brother a reassuring hug. But “they told me I couldn’t touch him,” she recalled.

.. the government returned slightly more than half of the 103 children under the age of 5 to their migrant parents.

.. But more than 2,800 children — some of them separated from their parents, some of them classified at the border as “unaccompanied minors” — remain in these facilities

.. these facilities are united by a collective sense of aching uncertainty — scores of children gathered under a roof who have no idea when they will see their parents again.

.. She would quickly write these notes after she had finished her math worksheets, she said, so as not to violate yet another rule: No writing in your dorm room. No mail.

.. She kept the letters safe in a folder for the day when she and her mother would be reunited, though that still hasn’t happened. “I have a stack of them,” she said.

.. it chose one of the harshest deterrents ever employed by a modern president: the separation of migrant children from their parents.

.. earning “big brother” status for being good role models for younger children. They were rewarded the privilege of playing video games.

.. You couldn’t touch others. You couldn’t run. You had to wake up at 6:30 on weekdays, with the staff making banging noises until you got out of bed.

.. Diego said that he was not afraid, because he always behaved. He knew to watch for a staff member “who was not a good guy.” He had seen what happened to Adonias, a small boy from Guatemala who had fits and threw things around.

They applied injections because he was very agitated,” Diego said. “He would destroy things.”

A person he described as “the doctor” injected Adonias in the middle of a class, Diego said. “He would fall asleep.”

.. But because of the rules, the two boys did not hug.

.. Yoselyn Bulux, 15, is a rail-thin girl from Totonicapán, Guatemala, with long dark hair and no clear memory of how she summoned the strength to climb the wall at the border.

.. “If you do something bad, they report you,” Yoselyn recalled. “And you have to stay longer.”

..  Also on Saturday, Yoselyn met with a counselor, whom she liked. They talked about her hope to be with her mother soon.

.. then the woman serving as her escort handed Yoselyn over to her father, who was so overcome at the sight of his daughter that he could not speak.

.. They were taken to the shelter, given new clothes and separated: Victor to the boys’ area, Leidy to the girls’.

.. But at least he had a trabajadora de caso — a caseworker — named Linda who helped him navigate his new world. “She did everything she could to find my mother,” Victor said. “She called every state.”

.. The walls that separate the sleeping quarters do not reach the high ceilings, which means that sounds travel in the yawning spaces within the 250,000-square-foot building. One boy will make a loud animal noise, after which another will emit an animal-like response.

“Someone will start mooing,” the employee said. “They just think it’s funny. They just do it long enough so everyone can hear, and then we all start laughing.”

.. staff is overworked and a little stressed out by the 12-hour shifts and the considerable responsibilities.

.. During the day, the staff is required to maintain a ratio of one worker for every eight children. The ratio sets the tempo and culture at Casa Padre, the employee said. “It’s a big deal if we’re out of ratio.”

.. If one boy in a classroom needs to use the restroom, then a staff member has to find seven others who also want to go to the bathroom. “They’ll all stand in a line and then we’ll walk to the restroom,”

.. Some of the boys at Casa Padre were separated from their parents at the border, but most were caught crossing without a parent or guardian. All seem to keep themselves entertained with soccer or movies or video games.

.. “If they get sad, it’s like a quiet thing,” the employee said. “You’ll see them sit on the floor and just kind of wrap their arms around themselves.”

.. Some time in the evening is set aside for prayer. Boys can be found praying in a classroom, in a game room, in a bedroom. Some kneel.


She Became a Face of Family Separation at the Border. But She’s Still With Her Mother.

The father, Denis Javier Varela Hernandez, 32, who lives in Puerto Cortés, Honduras, said in an interview in Spanish on Friday that his daughter Yanela, who turns 2 next month, and her mother, Sandra Maria Sanchez, are together and fine. He said Ms. Sanchez, with whom he has been in a relationship for 14 years, left for the United States three weeks ago.

Mr. Varela, in an interview with Spanish-language Univision that aired on Monday, said that he was surprised to see his wife and daughter featured in the photograph, but that he was not worried. Mr. Moore had captured the image six days earlier, in McAllen, Tex.

“She was looking for a better quality of life, a better future,” Mr. Varela told The Times on Friday. “She had mentioned to me that she wanted to leave. But she never to

“She wanted a house and she wanted to have her own business,” said Mr. Varela, who works as a boat captain in Puerto Cortés. “Everyone here wants those things. I always told her to not leave, but everyone makes their own decisions.”

ld me about taking our daughter.”

The couple has three other children: a son, Wesly, 14, and two daughters, Cindy, 11, and Brianna, 6.

.. But the magazine issued a correction to the accompanying article, saying that Border Patrol agents had not carried the girl away screaming. Instead, the correction said, the mother had picked the toddler up and they left together.

.. For now, he said, he is glad to see that the photograph of his daughter had made an impact. “I feel sad because of the image, but at the same time, happy,” he said, adding, “Look at what my daughter has come to mean to immigrants and the topic of immigration worldwide.”

‘I wanted to stop her crying’: The image of a migrant child that broke a photographer’s heart

The night-crossers were often families, exhausted and terrified from their journeys, seeking asylum from whatever terror had driven them from home.

.. While they had been evacuating their homes and traveling — some for weeks — the United States had changed the rules. Pleas for asylum that had been accepted for years might now be rejected.

.. Mothers and fathers, who would have been released to await court hearings, would now be jailed. Their children would be seized

.. There were dozens of them, though it was hard to count in the dark. When the guards’ lights hit them, Moore saw that they were almost entirely women and children. It was about as pure a family exodus as he had seen in his career.

.. On their faces were mixtures of relief and fear. Sometimes just one or the other. “There was a boy, about a 10- or 12-year-old boy, who was visibly terrified,” Moore recalled.

.. The secretary of homeland security has suggested that the nearly 2,000 children who have been seized at the border since April were taken for their own safety. How could the government know that their parents were not their captors?