Thursday was Día de las Madres, or Mother’s Day, in Mexico.
I spent the morning in Nogales, Mexico, running a pro bono immigration legal clinic — and met with asylum seekers who are fleeing persecution in their home countries. A handful of migrant women who were at the clinic were mothers and were with their small children. All had made the dangerous journey north towards the U.S.-Mexico border. They are hoping to seek refuge and peace in the United States — leaving all they knew behind.
Before the clinic began early in the morning, we had all gathered in a space where other volunteers were making and distributing breakfast for the migrants who had arrived.
Soon, those in the hall were singing a Mother’s Day song dedicated to the small group of women and their children who were there — the hall is less than a mile away from the border.
With a smile on her face, one of the volunteers had a microphone and asked the mothers about whether or not they ever felt like they could really rest while taking care of their children.
One of the migrant women took the microphone with tears in her eyes, and I immediately thought about the scores of migrant women with children I’ve legally counseled over the last few years — either on the Mexican side of the border or in immigrant detention centers in the United States.
“¿Descanso? Nunca,” she replied. Rest? Never. Sitting next to her, there was a baby who sat in the lap of another mother. After the woman made this remark, he innocently banged his spoon on the table — seemingly in agreement.
I frequently have to give the news to asylum-seeking mothers and children that arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border is unfortunately not the end of their difficult journey. Presenting themselves at a port of entry to request asylum is often a state-sanctioned continuation of their persecution.
The Trump administration has been doubling down on family separation at the border — forcibly separating young children from their parents when requesting asylum.
I currently have another asylum-seeking client detained at the Florence Detention Center while their daughter is thousands of miles away outside of Detroit — the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement has custody of her. They have been separated for over eight months, with separately pending asylum claims (so much for purported judicial efficiency).
In addition to potential family separation, I also advise that due to the recent Supreme Court decision, Jennings v. Rodriguez, there are no more bond hearings for detained immigrants, including asylum seekers. In a low asylum granting jurisdiction like Eloy and Florence (less than 10 percent), if an asylum seeker decides to appeal — it could easily mean months or years languishing in detention.
Those migrant mothers who we were singing along with that morning at the clinic are mothers who left everything and everyone they knew behind in order to protect their children.
The Trump administration’s xenophobic policies on cracking down on asylum-seeking mothers and children are unconscionable. This is happening less than 100 miles from us here in Tucson, where a border wall is arbitrarily the only thing separating our humanity.
However you may acknowledge this Mother’s Day, let’s stand in solidarity with these brave migrant mothers fighting for their lives and for the lives of their children — because this issue cannot rest.
Melanie Gleason is an immigration rights attorney, runs a pro bono project for asylum seekers called Attorney on the Move and is a public voices fellow with The OpEd Project.