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EDITORIAL: The border war hits home: A mother's plight mirrors what our government is doing to thousands

Keene Sentinel - 7/12/2018

July 12--There is nothing extraordinary about the plight of Jessica Baca Garcia and her son, compared to thousands of others in a similar position.

Like many others, Baca Garcia and her 12-year-old son Jafet crossed the border in May, seeking asylum from Honduras, a Central American nation torn by corruption and gang violence. Family members told The Sentinel that Baca Garcia's ex-boyfriend had gang ties and abused her, and that three relatives have died in gang violence there. Baca Garcia had hopes asylum would be granted, as it was to her sister several years ago.

But under the Trump administration, providing refuge to those whose lives are endangered by gang violence or domestic violence is no longer an American principle. Attorney General Jeff Sessions specifically struck both from the list of criteria for asylum last month.

Add to that President Donald Trump's orders to separate parents and children at the border -- the stated goal of which is to be so callously inhumane that refugees and asylum seekers will opt to not even attempt entry -- and you have a heartless and politically motivated debacle that diminishes our country in every way.

Thus, Baca Garcia was detained at the border in El Paso, Texas, in May. And her son was taken from her, held in a separate detention center.

The separating of children from their parents by immigration authorities has proven such an openly reviled practice that even the president -- after his silly attempt to paint it as the responsibility of congressional Democrats who have no power and who universally oppose the practice -- made a point of signing an executive order that pretends to resolve the situation, but doesn't.

A California judge this week reaffirmed a prior ruling that children taken from their parents be reunited. Already, the administration has failed to meet the first deadline for reuniting the youngest children. In too many cases, it appears that's because they simply don't care enough to even keep track of where the children and parents have been taken.

Sadly, as noted, Baca Garcia is merely one of thousands of people facing a similar dynamic. They are casualties of Trump's "build a wall" and "Mexicans are criminals" campaign rhetoric, though many showing up at our border are not Mexican and, in any case, Trump's assessment of those seeking to restart their lives here is vicious hyperbole.

Tuesday, amid strong criticism of his policy, Trump countered that the solution to the child separations is for people to not come here illegally. "I have a solution. Tell people not to come to our country illegally. That's the solution. Don't come to our country illegally. Come like other people do. Come legally," he said.

Apparently the president is either ignorant of the law or willfully misrepresenting it, because Baca Garcia and her son didn't "come here illegally." They presented themselves to authorities to legally apply for asylum, a longstanding process that under this administration is being conflated with "sneaking over the border."

Baca Garcia and her son might be just another family caught in a political maelstrom, but for the fact that her brother Marlon lives in Keene. As we have in news coverage of the case, we note Marlon Garcia's wife, Jessica, is The Sentinel's interactive media services director, though that's unrelated to the story.

What is relevant is that the Garcias of Keene presented a petition through Change.org calling for Baca Garcia and her son to be released to the family here. That effort has garnered more than 94,000 signatures in under two weeks, raising the profile of the case significantly.

It did not, however, affect the disposition of the case: As reported Saturday, Baca Garcia's asylum request was rejected a week ago. Though the family is still fighting, she is slated to be deported. At some time. Perhaps with her son, though not for certain. Because information is so difficult to obtain from the Department of Homeland Security, the Garcias don't know when or how Jafet will be reunited with his mother, though they've been told he will be. Unless she's deported before they get around to it.

The Keene Garcias are still fighting. They're getting help from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and from lawyers through the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program at Harvard Law School -- Baca Garcia had no representation during her first go-round with immigration officials. But she was transferred to another facility this week, which might be a sign her deportation is imminent.

Because of her familial link to Keene, residents of the Monadnock Region have gotten a closer look at what our government is doing -- multiplied by thousands -- to actual human beings. That you might not know them shouldn't change the way you feel about what's happening to them.


(c)2018 The Keene Sentinel (Keene, N.H.)

Visit The Keene Sentinel (Keene, N.H.) at www.sentinelsource.com

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