My name is Kim Chaix. In July 2018, as the crisis caused by the Trump Administration’s family separation policy became increasingly apparent, I traveled to southeast Texas with my friend Kate to spend a week volunteering with the RAICES Texas Family Detention Program. I am a native Spanish-speaker and Kate is an immigration attorney who specializes in asylum cases. Like you, we were outraged by the Administration’s unconscionable family separation policy and felt compelled to help.
RAICES runs a pro-bono legal program at the Karnes Family Detention Center for asylum-seekers detained at the Texas border. On our first day at Karnes, Kate and I met Kenia and her ten-year-old son Michael. Kenia fled Honduras with Michael in June after enduring 9-months of violent attacks at gunpoint by a man working as an assassin for the police.
When Kenia tried to get away from her attacker by moving to another city in Honduras, he tracked her down and threatened to kill her and Michael if she ever tried to get away from him again. Afraid for their lives, Kenia made the agonizing decision to leave her four-year-old daughter with her parents so that she and Michael could seek asylum in the United States.
Shortly after crossing the Rio Grande into Texas, Kenia and Michael were apprehended by Border Patrol agents and taken to a processing facility where they were forcibly separated. Kenia was placed in “la hielera,” or “the icebox,” a holding cell so-named by immigrants for its extremely cold temperature. Michael was taken with the other children to “la perrera,” or “the kennel,” a large cage in a warehouse resembling a dog run. A couple days later, Kenia was transported in shackles with other immigrant mothers to a criminal court to be prosecuted for illegal border crossing. After being sentenced to time-served the mothers were returned to the processing facility where they discovered that all of the children had been removed. Immigration authorities would not tell them where the children had been taken. When Kenia frantically pleaded for information about Michael she was told that he now belonged to Donald Trump and had been sent off to war.
Kenia and Michael were separated for 30 days, during which time Kenia was given no information about Michael’s whereabouts. In mid-July, after a federal judge ordered the reunification of all separated families, Kenia and Michael were finally reunited at the Karnes Detention Center. To this day, the government has provided no information about where Michael was held or how he was cared for during the separation.
Kate and I met Kenia and Michael less than 48 hours after they had been reunited. Kenia and Michael were facing imminent deportation because Kenia had failed the threshold screening given to asylum-seekers detained at the border. Kenia had been given the screening interview during the time that she was separated from Michael and Kate determined that the interview had been defective for multiple reasons. Kate and I agreed that we wanted to do everything in our power to keep them safe in the United States. Kate offered to help them with their asylum case if we could get them out of detention and to New York. I offered to provide them with temporary housing in my home in Brooklyn until more permanent housing could be arranged. Kenia, who feared returning to Honduras, agreed.
It would take Kate and other volunteer lawyers another four months of tireless work to gain Kenia and Michael’s release. A few days before Thanksgiving - six months after leaving Honduras - Kenia and Michael finally arrived in NYC with only the clothes on their backs.
Since their arrival in New York, Kenia and Michael have been living with me and my family in the basement of our apartment in Brooklyn. Michael attends our local elementary school where he is thriving academically. With the help of some other volunteers, we have arranged for Kenia and Michael to receive much needed medical and psychological treatment. Their current living situation, however, is not sustainable and we need to find them safe, affordable, independent housing soon. Kenia does not yet have permission from the government to work and could, in fact, be re-detained if she is found to be working without authorization. Because of current procedural issues with the asylum regulations it is possible that Kenia may not obtain work authorization for another 6-9 months.
HELP US RAISE $25,000 TO HELP HOUSE K AND M FOR ONE FULL YEAR.
Your financial support will also help cover the following basic expenses:
1. Food and basic necessities for both
2. Continued medical and psychological care for Kenia, including tests and medication, as she does not qualify for Medicaid
3. Kenia’s cell phone, which she is required to have by ICE
4. Transportation to and from ICE check-ins, immigration court, and medical appointments
5. English lessons for Kenia
Any contribution will make a difference! We will update you regularly on their progress.
* To ensure full transparency in the allocation of funds, Christina Kornilakis, a mother and former social worker living in NYC and who is also providing support for Kenia and Michael, has agreed to oversee with me the management of the fund. More specifically, because Kenia & Michael are living in our house and because I am responsible for their day-to-day well-being, I am the in charge of disbursements and payments related to Kenia & Michael's care. However, any major expense (over $250) is done in consultation with Christina. Christina can track expenditures via a shared spreadsheet and Expensify software.
Feel free to reach out with any questions about this fundraising effort and goals. You can reach me, Kim, at (917) 378-8670 or by email at [email redacted]. Christina can be reached at [email redacted] .
All drawing by Michael. The drawing above represents the detention center. Michael loves to play soccer!
The top drawing was done the very first day we met Kenia & Michael. We asked Michael to draw us a picture while we spoke with Kenia. This is what he drew.
- Jennie Apter
- The DeCock Family
- Conor Fox
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