Yolany Padilla and her six-year-old son, Jelsin, crossed the border into Texas in May after fleeing Honduras, one of the world's most violent nations. But after turning themselves in to immigration officials and being detained separately, Padilla hasn't seen her son in two months, she told reporters in Seattle on Wednesday.
Immigration officers took Jelsin away shortly after they crossed the border, and Padilla was eventually transferred to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.
The mother was finally released on an $8,000 bond on Friday.
While the actual number remains a federal secret, immigrant advocates say close to 700 asylum seekers are currently detained in federal facilities in Washington state.
They've identified at least 55 parents in Washington state who remain separated from their children. That’s despite the Trump administration officially ending the policy last month of taking children away from their parents.
Padilla said not seeing her son for two months is abuse.
“Because, legally, nobody should have to ask permission to go to see or telephone their child,” she said through an interpreter.
Padilla said asylum seekers' treatment was not bad in Tacoma, but "horrible" at detention centers in Texas, where she spent a month before being transferred to the Pacific Northwest. She said detainees had to go 15 days without bathing or brushing their teeth. Padilla added that asylum seekers had to sit on cold cement seats in a super air-conditioned facility they called "the icebox."
Now that Padilla is free, she tries to talk to Jelsin every day. He remains in federal detention in New York.
Padilla said she had no idea when she’ll get to see her son again. Their last call ended in tears, she said, with her son very upset that they are still apart.
Padilla is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit filed by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. It demands that families of asylum seekers be reunited immediately.
The advocacy group says no families of asylum seekers have been reunited in Washington state. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to comment on the pending litigation.
The Trump administration has described the separations as a deterrent aimed at stopping people from seeking asylum here. But Padilla said it's not deterring people who are fleeing desperate situations.
Even once she is reunited with her son, Padilla said she's not going back to Honduras.