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Border & Immigration

Immigration Groups Say Parents Coerced To Sign Deporation Documents

U.S. Customs and Border Protection
A border agent watches detained individual at a holding site. Immigration groups claim ICE officers used intimidation on parents seperated from their children to sign deportation documents.

Immigrant rights groups said officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement coerced members of separated families to sign voluntary deportation documents.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association and other groups filed a complaint Thursday with homeland security's inspector general highlights the stories of 13 parents separated from their children at the border.

It said immigration officials used a variety of tactics to intimidate people, like reuniting families for a moment, demanding signatures on the deportation documents, and then separating the families again when they refused to sign.

“Detention officers put separated parents in solitary confinement, deprived them of food and water for days, and subjected them to other forms of retaliatory punishment. Parents experienced severe physical and emotional distress, depression, and mental health problems from the conditions of detention and separation from their children,” the complaint said.

Katie Shepherd, the national advocacy counsel for the Immigration Justice Campaign, said a Honduran woman referred to as "DP" was separated from her 9-year-old daughter for 47 days.

“One mother described how an ICE officer nicknamed ‘The Deporter’ physically intimidated her while trying to her get to sign a voluntary departure form, standing over her menacingly and shouting over her to sign,” she said.

She was eventually reunited with her daughter and released from detention.

When asked for comment, an ICE spokesperson said: “Due to ongoing litigation, ICE is unable to provide any details on this matter."

Joey Palacios can be reached at joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @joeycules