“They told him he was being deported, and he was never given a chance to discuss his credible-fear claim—as would have been required by law,” Long told me. This was, she said, Miguel’s second time seeking asylum in the U.S., and his second time being denied.
Back home in Honduras, according to Long, Miguel tried for a week to contact his son, who was in a children’s detention center somewhere in the United States. He was finally able reach a hotline, the phone number passed to him by another father who had been separated from his child. Miguel eventually connected with his son, but he remained worried—about the delays in getting his 4-year-old out of detention, about who would take care of him once he was released. One was in a bustling American metropolis, the other in a tiny town in remote Honduras—and Miguel had no phone. The U.S. government had not given legal advocates any records for the father or son, according to Long, and attempts to gather the necessary information from Miguel were difficult, if not impossible. (A request to the Department of Homeland Security for comment on the specifics of Miguel’s case was not immediately returned.)
How will detained children find their parents?
Long and the Honduran lawyer, together with a local fixer who was a former criminal-justice reporter, set about trying to physically reach Miguel in order to gather the testimony needed for his son’s legal case. To find him, they had little more than a few descriptive lines—ones that sounded more like a nursery rhyme than any sort of geo-data. “And we were given two different names for that particular village,” Long said.
Once Long and her associates arrived in an agricultural center near what (they hoped) was Miguel’s town, the group began asking around, making what Long called “security inquiries.” “Security conditions vary greatly over short distances,” she explained. “Some roads are safe, and some are not. You need to do your research and talk to people to find out.”
Access roads were too risky to attempt, given the criminal syndicates who ran the area, so the group connected with the local police, one of whom—purely by coincidence—knew the mayor of the tiny town where Miguel lived. He, in turn, knew Miguel. By luck or divine providence, Long and her associates were able to get a message to Miguel, and paid for a motorcycle to bring him on a two-hour ride to their location. “Finally, and sort of miraculously, he arrived,” Long said.
But the hour was growing late: Once night fell, the roads would soon become too dangerous for safe passage. So the team quickly took Miguel’s testimony, bribed the local internet café to stay open, printed the document, and had Miguel sign it, just as the sun began to set. Then they all went on their way—a happy outcome that required impossible serendipity and unusual tenacity, simply to begin turning the wheels of justice for one father and one son. As Long finished telling me the story, she said, “And now multiply that by 463.”