Upon reaching the U.S. they presented themselves to U.S. Border Control agents and were eventually housed at a juvenile facility in South Texas. According to the law, when unaccompanied youth in custody turn 18 they are supposed to be transferred to the “least restrictive setting available”. However, the recent ICE protocol in Texas is, that when these young people turn 18, they are removed from the juvenile facility in the early morning hours, and taken in handcuffs and leg shackles to be placed in detention at the Houston Processing Center, which is a high-security adult prison. In this jail, asylum-seeking youth, who have already endured multiple traumas from the violence they fled, the brutal journey, apprehension, and detention – are treated as criminals. Conditions are very bleak, with inmates going twelve hours between meals, and being forced to sleep with soda bottles filled with hot water in order to endure the bitterly cold temperatures. They are not permitted to receive any warm clothing, nor even books. They are allowed only an hour of time outside each day, and have highly restricted visiting hours. The transfer to adult detention is not only devastating to such young people, but also traumatizing for all of the children at the juvenile shelter who know what an 18th birthday means. The mood is anxious and somber for days after an arrest.
Miguel was first moved to this facility and Ashley a few weeks later. Daniel, who is the son of Janine’s friend Jodi, met Miguel just hours before his 18th birthday at the beginning of August while he was down in South Texas, volunteering as an interpreter for the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law. Jodi and Daniel have become Miguel’s sponsors and have helped him get released from the Processing Center.
Janine, after hearing about Miguel and Ashley’s story and after reading so many heartbreaking accounts of unaccompanied minors and children being separated from their families at the border, felt compelled to do something as well. And so she has become Ashley’s sponsor and will do what she can to help her both get released and move forward, after the release. Rebecca was also a volunteer interpreter on the same juvenile facility site visit as Daniel and got connected to Ashley through her work as an interpreter in TX. She has taken Ashley under her wing, being a lifeline to her while she is incarcerated in the Houston adult detention center. Rebecca is also pledging to do whatever she can to support her afterwards.
We are praying and hoping that Ashley will in fact get released as she committed no crime, has already filed for asylum, and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), and she has a deeply committed sponsor in Janine. She has a hearing this week but there is no guarantee. Rebecca and Janine are running this GoFundMe for Ashley to collect funds to cover her legal and other costs, and as a way of showing her and the courts that there are, in fact, folks out there who care about people like Ashley and Miguel. Some of you may have already given to a similar GoFundMe – thank you so much. If you are able to find it in yourself to support this one too, we would be so grateful.
We hope that taking the action of giving to this campaign, will allow you to feel like you are doing something to make a difference in an area that moved so many of us, yet left us feeling helpless.
Any amount will be greatly appreciated by Ashley.
Thank you for considering a contribution and for your support.
Janine and Rebecca
*Names have been changed in order to protect Ashley, Miguel and their families.