US officials took baby daughter from mother while she breastfed in immigration detention centre, says attorney

Hundreds of children are thought to have been taken from parents crossing into US from Mexico since 'no tolerance' policy adopted

Tom Barnes
Thursday 14 June 2018 14:09 BST
US congressman Luis Gutierrz speaks at Washington rally demanding end to family separations at US border

A Honduran woman says US border officials snatched her infant child while she was breastfeeding her at a detention centre in southern Texas.

Natalia Cornelio, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, told CNN the unnamed woman claimed in an interview that authorities had taken her daughter while the family was in custody.

The woman had been detained under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy to illegal migrants or asylum seekers caught crossing the border between Mexico and the United States.

Since the strategy was introduced in May, anyone found crossing the border unauthorised faces federal charges and are likely to be separated from any children they travelled with.

Department of Homeland Security officials revealed in Senate testimony around 650 children were split from their families in detention centres within two weeks of the policy’s launch.

“The government is essentially torturing people by doing this,” Ms Cornelio said.

The Texas Civil Rights Project says in many cases federal agencies give no information to detained parents regarding their children’s whereabouts.

It said on one occasion it was aware of, border patrol agents told a mother they were taking her daughter for a bath, only to never return the child.

Carlos Diaz, a US Customs and Border Protection spokesman, disputed claims officials had separated a child from its mother as she breastfed.

“Nothing could be further from the truth and these allegations are unsubstantiated,” he said.

Meanwhile, several members of Congress blocked off the entrance to the US Customs and Border Protection headquarters in Washington on Wednesday in protest over the separations.

“I cannot think of an act that is more cruel and more inhumane than to rip the child from the arms of the mother,” Democratic congressman from Illinois, Luis Gutierrez, told crowds at the event.

“A mother who comes fleeing systematic torture, rape, death, gang violence. The cartels run her neighbourhood, run her nation and her government does not, will not, cannot protect her.

“She comes to the United States, not illegally, but following one of the greatest traditions in our country, to seek asylum, from death and from torture. We welcome her and her children to this country.”

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