Immigration authorities reportedly took a detained migrant woman’s infant daughter from her while she was breastfeeding, then placed the woman in handcuffs when she resisted.
The woman had been detained under the Trump administration’s new “zero-tolerance” policy, which criminally prosecutes everyone caught illegally crossing the border, separating them from their children.
Natalia Cornelio, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project who interviewed the woman, told CNN that the woman was sobbing as she told her story.
“The government is essentially torturing people by doing this,” Cornelio told CNN.
The woman’s separation from her daughter is just the latest story to emerge after the Trump administration began implementing its new border policy. A number of similar reports have circulated throughout the national media in recent weeks, many of them attracting public backlash.
Lawyers who work with the migrants have told news outlets that immigration authorities have separated children from their parents under the guise of taking them to go bathe. The parents described to the lawyers their horror as they realized hours later that their children weren’t coming back.
Other stories have surfaced about frightened, traumatized children placed in foster care with little contact with their parents — one foster mother described to The New York Times a five-year-old boy who clung to stick-figure drawings of his family.
One migrant father even took his own life at a Texas jail last month, after suffering a breakdown when Border Patrol agents separated him from his wife and three-year-old son, The Washington Post reported.
It’s unclear exactly how many families have been separated since the new policy has been implemented. A Customs and Border Protection official told lawmakers at a recent hearing that 658 children were separated from 638 adults in two weeks between May 6 and May 19.
The Department of Health and Human Services has said more than 10,000 migrant children are now in US government custody — and shelters are at 95% capacity — though it’s unclear how many of those children were separated from their parents and how many arrived at the border unaccompanied.