On Thursday, The Brazilian Report wrote about the (at least) 49 Brazilian children who have been affected by the U.S. government’s policy of treating people who cross the border illegally as criminals. The move caused children to be separated from their parents, who remained detained until their trial and, in most cases, deportation.

The Brazilian Report spoke to Felipe Santarosa, Brazil’s Deputy Consul in Houston, Texas. He said that Brazilian diplomats do not yet know the identities of the Brazilian minors, only their location. Mr. Santarosa spoke to The Brazilian Report via Skype.


Diplomats yet to identify Brazilian children separated from parents at U.S. border


Just how bad have things gotten?

It’s very serious. These kids may experience irreparable psychological trauma. The youngest Brazilian child in a border shelter is only 5 years old. To split a child from their parents at this early age, even if she or he is taken care of, is something that may cause damages we cannot imagine.

What is the biggest challenge for Brazilian diplomats now?

We are doing investigative work, still checking with each shelter to know who is there. We need to identify all the children. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent us the list [of Brazilian nationals] on June 15. We can say that, for now, there are at least 49 under-aged Brazilians in these places.

The number tends to be higher, though. In Texas, we have found different numbers. According to the list, there was one child in a shelter, but we have found out that actually there were two of them. So we are updating these numbers and collecting more details about each case.

When we call these shelters, not all of them respond immediately. Some don’t have the parents’ names, only their prisoner record number. So we have to call another department to find out who they are, where they are, and then get back to the shelters. It takes a while.

How is Brazilian diplomacy going to help these families?

Our main concern now is to find all the children’s parents. Then we will plan what to do. One of the actions we are already taking is speaking with the parents we have found and asking whether they have relatives or friends who could be temporarily responsible for these children.

How many Brazilian adults remain in detention centers?

The latest number we got from the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement authority (ICE) is 498. But they send it every six months, so we think it also may be larger.  

Donald Trump recently signed an executive order to allow families who cross the border to remain together – with children jailed with their parents. How does this affect families that were split before June 20?

Nobody really knows whether it will be also valid for the prior cases. What we know is that, logistically, it will be very hard to reunite over 2,000 families overall. They are spread across many states. This is cannot be done from one day to the next.  

During Barack Obama’s administration, there was also a very harsh immigration policy, similar to Trump’s. Why has the debate grown so much in the past weeks?

The situation has gained a dramatic perspective. Press coverage is more intense now and the number of families separated has increased a lot.

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PowerJun 23, 2018

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