[Five-year-old] Thiago and his mother [Ana Carolina Fernandes] were apprehended by the Border Patrol in New Mexico on May 22. The next day, officers informed Ms. Fernandes and other Brazilian mothers detained at the same border facility that their children would be removed from them. Thiago cried himself to sleep when his mother broke the news to him. Another boy had a panic attack and had to be hospitalized.
“When the officer came for Thiago, he had to carry him in his arms because he was so sleepy,” Ms. Fernandes said. “Then he began to cry.”
About four days later, Ms. Fernandes, who had been transferred to a federal prison, was summoned to take a phone call. A woman on the line informed her that Thiago had shut down. He refused to eat. He wouldn’t bathe.
Thiago was put on the phone, sobbing uncontrollably. She urged her son to eat. She assured him that they would be together soon.
But several weeks passed before mother and child would speak again. Ms. Fernandes had no idea that Thiago had been flown to Los Angeles and placed with a foster family.
After posting bond and being released from detention on June 10, Ms. Fernandes was handed a toll-free number to locate her son. She called the number immediately after arriving in Philadelphia, where she moved in with relatives, but she had to have help from a Boston lawyer, Jesse Bless, to get Thiago released.
It didn’t happen until July 13. When she spotted her son at baggage claim at the airport, Ms. Fernandes said, she ran toward him, her heart racing. “I cried and hugged him — but he didn’t even care. He stood there frozen,” she recalled. [Continue reading…]