By Max Rivlin-Nadler
At the beginning of this month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted a number of raids on the homes of Central American immigrants, targeting families and unaccompanied children in particular. These families, many of whom fled worsening violence in their countries and entered the United States less than two years ago, had been given a final order of removal by immigration courts in the states they resided in, which included Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina. For the most part, ICE entered the homes in the early hours of the morning, taking the families into custody and transporting them immediately to a family residential center in Dilley, Texas, where DHS would have them await travel documents and a return flight to their home countries.
Many of the families had children attending school in their communities who were preparing to return to class in a few days. The drawings you see here were made by several of the at least 21 children still in ICE custody at Dilley, where they await possible deportation. The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) has been working with the families to help stay their deportations, and the children can now possibly spend months in legal limbo while living in the facility, which has been described by the ACLU as "an internment camp." The children, who were born in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, drew what happened the morning of the raids. RAICES then passed the drawings on to VICE.
"They wake us up," wrote one of the children as a caption to her drawing, which is time-stamped 5 AM. "My sister have a babe [sic] the babe wake up he start to cry." Outside of the house the girl has drawn a car labeled "ICE" facing a woman with her hands up.
"The immigration officials arrived at my house and this is how the whole sad nightmare started," wrote another girl in Spanish as a caption to a drawing of cars pulling up to a house filled with people crying inside. "They separated me from my family."
"Several of these families have really solid asylum claims," said Mohammad Abdollahi, advocacy director for RAICES. "These are families that will possibly be killed if they are deported. Which makes it all the more depressing how many of the deportations of families have already gone through."
An ICE spokesman told VICE that the enforcement actions carried out earlier this month involving Central American families were conducted in accordance with new priorities laid out by DHS that refocused deportation efforts on new arrivals and individuals with criminal records.