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USA Today | Honduran father, lawyers seek release of 2 daughters in NYC foster care center


NEW YORK — When Hector Tejeda Santos told his pregnant wife and two young daughters to flee Honduras and meet him in the United States, he said he hoped they would find peace of mind in Texas.

Instead, he learned in June that his family had been detained at the U.S.-Mexico border. His wife was taken to the Port Isabel Detention Center, and his daughters, 5-year-old Serli and 9-year-old Cecia, were shipped off to the Cayuga foster care center in East Harlem, New York.

He's been trying to get his daughters released ever since.

"You can't imagine how much I've suffered," Santos, 32, who is in Gavelston, Texas, told The Record in a Spanish-language phone interview. "My daughters cry and cry. My wife is detained with a baby I'm not seeing them grow."

Santos’ wife and daughters were among the more than 2,000 families separated under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy, which called for the criminal prosecution of people who illegally crossed the Southwest border.

The federal government scrambled to reunite dozens of families with children under age 5 on Tuesday to meet a deadline imposed by a federal judge. The judge ordered the government to reunite those children with their parents by Tuesday and reunite children over age 5 by July 26.

The government did not reunite all migrant children in that age bracket with their parents in time, despite U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw's insistence that the government streamline its process to meet the deadlines.

When asked about family separations on Tuesday, President Donald Trump said the answer is to "tell people not to come to our country illegally. That's the solution. Don't come to our country illegally."

Santos, who entered the country earlier this year with his oldest daughter, planned to travel to New York City with his lawyer, Ricardo de Anda, to pick up his two younger daughters. But he is wearing an ankle monitor pending the results of his asylum petition and was told he couldn't travel without permission from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The agency did not grant him permission, de Anda said.

Santos’ wife, Denise Santos, 30, was supposed to be released so she could be reunited with the girls at Cayuga, but de Anda said ICE has kept her detained without explanation.

Instead, de Anda and Michael Avenatti, a Los Angeles  attorney best known for representing Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who has sued Trump over an alleged affair and $130,000 that she said she was paid to keep quiet about it, held a news conference Wednesday morning outside Cayuga Centers in East Harlem to call for the reunification of the Santos family.

“This is not acceptable,” Avenatti told reporters. “This is not our America. For months now, this cruel and unusual president has been holding children hostage in the name of politics.”

Ricardo de Anda