Federal contractors working to reunite families separated at the border asked about the religious affiliation of at least two immigrant women seeking to get their children back, according to court documents and an attorney involved in one of the interviews.
The women, both currently living in the Boston area, were recently separated from their children under President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy. Both of the women are asylum seekers, and one has already been reunited with her daughter.
Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark, who has been working with both mothers to reunite them with their children, told BuzzFeed News Friday that both women had been asked “what is your religion,” calling the question “outrageous.”
“Both of the families we’re working with are Christians,” Clark said. “But what if they weren’t? Are we saying now you can’t be reunified with your own child if you don’t share the religious preference of this particular vendor who runs these detainment centers for children?”
It’s not clear how widespread the practice of asking immigrant parents seeking to be reunited with their children about their religion is. The Administration for Children and Families, which oversees the office responsible for the separated children (the Office of Refugee Resettlement), didn’t respond to questions about whether it is a policy for ORR and its contractors to ask all immigrant parents about their religious affiliation or what the information is used for. The two federal contractors who housed the women’s children deferred questions to ORR. The executive director of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), which has worked to help reunite families, also said he was not familiar with the issue.
But according to Clark, court documents filed on behalf of one of the women and an attorney for the other, the questions about religion came up during phone interviews with caseworkers responsible for determining whether the two mothers were suitable sponsors for their own kids.
Angelica Rebeca Gonzalez-Garcia was reunited with her daughter in Boston last week after more than 50 days apart. She filed a lawsuit last month to get her daughter back but dropped the case after they were reunited. A clip of Gonzalez-Garcia in tears while hugging her daughter and asking for forgiveness for leaving her alone has been played repeatedly on CNN.
Read the full story at BuzzFeed News