Hours before crossing the border between Mexico and the United States, Ivanete dos Santos Dias discovered that she was pregnant. The pharmacy exam showed that the discomfort was not just due to the strain of the dangerous crossing she was trying to make alongside her husband, Marcelo Silva Benevides, and her then 13-year-old son Alan. years.
To immigration officials, she warned about the new pregnancy, said that Alan was born in the United States, the result of her first marriage, in 2005, but that now, with her new partner, she was asking for the asylum in the United States.
“They didn’t believe our story. They said we were a forged couple, that Marcelo was trying to get into the US at my expense, at my son’s expense, but that wasn’t true. We had been together ever since. four years, ”says the Brazilian, who used all the money she had to pay for a coyote to guide her through the venture.
It was October 2019, and the Donald Trump administration’s harsh policies against immigrants plunged Ivanete’s family into a roadmap of separation, arrests and abuse, which she said won. chapters of hope with the nomination of Joe Biden and his promise to treat those who try to do so more humanely. enter the United States without documents.
The Democrat began to reverse Trump’s stricter policies hours after he took office on January 20, but experts and officials say that doesn’t mean the borders are open.
“I want to appeal to the new government,” says Ivanete. “For Biden to look at the plight of all immigrants who face prejudice every day, parents being deported, separated from their children, is inhuman. Why do we have to suffer all of this? I have a baby born here in USA, a 15 year old son born here. To give me an opportunity is to give an opportunity to my children. “
Ivanete and Alan were taken in late 2019 to a detention center in El Paso, Texas, one of the main arrival points for immigrants on the southern border of the United States.
She says she spent six days in a tent with several people, sleeping on a thin mattress and with a blanket that did not soothe the early morning chill.
Marcelo, in turn, was sent to another place of immigration detention and since then has never seen his wife or stepson again, and he has yet to meet his daughter, now aged ten months.
“They took me to a damp place, they told me that I would be imprisoned for five years, that I would never see my family again. They knocked me down, disturbed my psychological state, said that I had done wrong trying to enter their country. , and that would pay for everything in a US federal prison. “
Marcelo spent a week in federal prison and his fate was sealed by deportation. Then he had to wait to be returned to Brazil for eight months, held in a prison in Otero, in the US state of New Mexico, for the duration of his wife’s pregnancy.
“It was one of the worst times of my life. It’s very complicated to be stuck in a place without seeing the sunlight, without feeling the air. I spent eight months without feeling the fresh air, because inside there was only air conditioning. They treat the air. People in such a grotesque way, as if we were nothing. We only eat to survive, everything is rationed. “
Marcelo has been in immigrant prison since the start of the pandemic and says over time the number of inmates has increased from 1,300 to 300 – officers reported 94 people had died from Covid-19, among several others infected . “And the infected were all among us.”
Otero prison has been the subject of allegations of ill-treatment and was featured in a report produced by the US Department of Homeland Security in December 2017 on the poor conditions faced by those held by ICE, the US immigration agency.
In the middle of last year, Marcelo was deported to Brazil on one of the planes chartered by the US government. “I was handcuffed for 25 hours. The flight made two stopovers for fuel, it was horrible.”
Ivanete made it to Boston, Massachusetts, home to one of the largest Brazilian communities in the United States. He relied on the help of friends to secure accommodation, money and food and, after the birth of his daughter, he went to live in a hostel in the city, where he continues to wait for Marcelo.
The couple know that after being deported, Marcelo cannot legally enter the United States for at least ten years, but believe the Biden government will be more generous with asylum claims, especially in the event of separation from the family, and intends to try harder once.
Experts warn, however, that a new tenant at the White House does not mean that abusive border practices have ended or that anyone who attempts to enter U.S. territory without papers will be successful.
“It is not possible to categorically say that Biden ended the abuses at the border,” said César Rossatto, professor at the University of Texas and honorary consul of Brazil. “Trump has taken abusive action against immigrants to an extreme we could not imagine, and Biden has canceled some of it, but not yet all. Many problems have not been resolved.”
According to Rossatto, who has tracked the flow across the border, 25,000 people are still waiting in Mexico for a response to the asylum procedure requested under the Trump administration, and last week, of the 32 who had a positive response, 10 were Brazilian.
When a refugee claim is accepted, immigrants are issued an I-94 visa, which allows them to live and work in the United States. “This news is spreading. Without a doubt, the number of Brazilians who will now try to enter the United States will increase even more.”
The expert acknowledges that the treatment of asylum seekers has improved under the Biden government, but there are still many security and treatment complications in other cases.
About a month ago, for example, a Brazilian died banging his head against a rock after attempting to cross from Mexico to the United States by jumping over the wall in the El Paso area.
“This is the case for a person who had no hope of qualifying for more humanitarian programs, is desperate,” says Rossatto, reflecting that the US border crisis is a serious problem and still very far from the end .