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Virginia Lawyers Detail Work With Immigrant Families

Michael Pope

A team of Virginia lawyers spent much of the last week volunteering to help more than 200 immigrant parents separated from their children.

In some ways, the crisis at the border has shades of the #MeToo Movement, although now these women are dealing with being separated from their children.

Sara Elizabeth Dill is part of a team of Northern Virginia lawyers who deployed for several days to Texas and interviewed hundreds of parents who were desperate to find their children.

“Every single woman that I spoke to had been sexually assaulted. Many of them talked about how their daughters had been raped, girls as young as 10 years old.”

Those women were fleeing horrible situations in Guatemala and Honduras. But now they have a new tragedy to face: U.S. immigration officials have taken their children away to unknown locations.

Sirine Shebaya says all the immigrants she talked to detailed horrible situations that caused them to make the treacherous journey to America.

“But then when it came to that last question that they were holding onto for the very end, looking into our eyes and afraid to ask the question: Where’s my child? When can I talk to my child? That seemed to be the moment when they really broke down.”

The group of Virginia lawyers first organized at Dulles Airport during the opening days of the Muslim travel ban. They decided then that they would remain ready to deploy again when needed.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.