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On Sunday, November 12th, 2017, José Demar Fuentes, a 30 year old El Salvadoran asylum seeker, marched through the streets of Tijuana, Mexico carrying his infant son Dylan Mateo Fuentes Acevedo (‘Mateo’) alongside 35 companions who, like he and Mateo, were on their way to present themselves at the U.S. border to ask for asylum. The group had just been through 10 days of legal orientation, and they knew that confronting the U.S. asylum system would be a challenge.
But José had no idea of the pain and hardship that he and his 1-year-old son would soon face.
After days in detention, including several nights in the infamous ‘hielera’ (icebox) at the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) facility, José sat alongside 6 other fathers and their children at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) San Diego Field Office waiting to be interviewed. José believed they would be released on parole to their relative in Los Angeles. To his surprise, and to the surprise of three other fathers, an immigration official came and told them that they would have to be separated from their children.
The fathers were shocked and at a loss for words. But they bonded together and decided they would resist, which they did on three separate occasions when ICE and CBP attempted to intimidate and coerce them into giving in. However, when ICE turned to physical force, not even one father’s desperate grip on his crying, 3-year-old son was enough to stop ICE’s mission to separate the families.
Sign this petition to #GiveMateoBack to his father José, after being forcefully and unlawfully taken from him by U.S. immigration officials.
The four fathers currently sit in desperation at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. Officers have provided them with no information on the whereabouts of their children, and only recently have the children begun to be located by family members. Our initial visit to Otay Mesa the day after they were separated from their children was an emotionally challenging one, as we sat listening to a group of distressed men – ones that had cared for their children along an incredibly dangerous and challenging journey – sobbing over the stark reality that they had finally made it to their hopeful place of refuge only to receive the welcome of having their kids ripped from their arms.
José must be reunited with his infant son, Mateo, and will not stop fighting until he is back in his arms. “However long it takes, I cannot be separated from my son. I need to see him.” - José Demar Fuentes.
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