The boy was crying as federal agents ordered him into the government vehicle. Tell your mother goodbye, they said.
It was late October, and Blanca Vasquez and her 12-year-old son, Luis, had only been in the United States for a few hours. They had crossed the Rio Grande near El Paso, giving themselves up to Border Patrol agents to ask for asylum. A gang in El Salvador had murdered her husband, a military sergeant, and she said they were now after Luis.
For decades, hundreds of thousands of immigrant families from Central America, escaping gang violence and political persecution, have followed a similar path, relying on international treaties protecting those seeking asylum from being summarily turned away.
Vasquez figured she and Luis would be detained, or even released, while she fought for asylum. A 20-year-old federal settlement that bars the extended detention of migrant children would ensure they stayed together.
But that was then. This summer, the practice changed.
Under orders from President Donald Trump’s administration, the federal government would begin broadly prosecuting parents who enter illegally, forcing the removal of their children. That enables the administration to detain parents until they are deported or win asylum, rather than freeing them with their children to wait for their cases in the backlogged civil immigration courts, a practice known as “catch and release” that Trump has vowed to end.
The possibility of being criminally prosecuted and separated from their children, the government argued, would deter Vasquez and other migrants from making the dangerous journey north.
But for Vasquez it was too late to turn back.
She was in federal prison. And her son Luis was, where?
No one would say.
This is our nation. We should be deeply ashamed, not only of Donald Trump, but that these policies could exist and we largely shrug our shoulders. The United States has always remained deeply committed to white supremacy. This is the latest iteration of that ideology. How many good people will die?