BOSTON (CBS) — The son of an immigrant mother has now spent 26 days alone in a Chicago detention facility while his mother waits for an asylum hearing in Massachusetts.
According to Lidia Souza’s lawyer, she and her nine-year-old son Diogo tried to do everything right as they crossed the border into the U.S. after they fled Brazil, fearing for their lives. Souza passed an initial screening but was still prosecuted for entering the country illegally and her child was taken away.
It took a week to find out where Diogo was staying.
Lawyer Jesse Bless will be filing a lawsuit against the federal government on Souza’s behalf. Bless left for Chicago on Monday morning, where he plans to officially file the suit and work to bring Souza’s son home.
“I’m going to visit the child, I’m going to stay until I bring him back. I don’t want to be gone long,” Bless said to the media at Logan Airport.
“This is a child who celebrated his birthday alone. This is a child who is sick. This is a child who I’ve personally heard cry on the phone every time he speaks to his mother and the people holding him in Chicago have called my client, Lidia, and asked to have her calm him down at times because he is so emotional.”
Bless said he had a change of clothes and toys for the boy.
He was also confident that his case would have an emergency relief hearing within the week, and it could be as heard as early as Monday afternoon.
Initially, Bless did not want to sue at all. “I have reached out every day, if not once, twice, I said, ‘listen, I don’t want to file suit, I don’t want to sue anyone, I just want the child’s release. When can that happen?’ And the goalposts kept moving on us. It went from 14 days to now 45 days. That’s not good enough because the child is suffering incredibly,” he said.
In the meantime, Souza, who was released on personal recognizance, is living with family. “We’re trying to help her as much as we can but she’s in pain,” Bless said.
Fellow lawyer Jeff Goldman was also available to talk with the media Monday. He focused on the reunification process the government had set forward. “What’s particularly troubling about the plan is that it has very little to do with reuniting the mother and the child, and more about how to make sure they’re deported.”
He continued, “They clearly state that their goal for reunification will be at the moment the parent is deported when the deportation proceedings have concluded. I want you all to know: that could be a very long time.”
According to Goldman, it could be months for Souza to receive an asylum hearing and if she were to be deported that could take years.
Bless said, “This was zero tolerance, zero thought, zero planning, zero care. But the game is up, this is a human tragedy, it’s not an immigration fight anymore. It’s a child.”