The teen mom who was abruptly deported after attempting suicide this summer at a Texas family detention center has fled Honduras again and is now living in Western Europe.
Lilian Oliva Bardales, 19, and her 4-year-old son flew out of Honduras last week. They’re staying with a cousin and renting a room that is only slightly larger than the one she spent 10 months in at the Karnes County Residential Center in South Texas before being deported.
It’s a simple three-bedroom apartment in a working-class neighborhood of a major city. The kitchen is small and she must share a bathroom, she said. But it’s clean and she’s free to come and go. She’s not worried about her ex-boyfriend finding her and abusing her or trying to take away their son.
“I can breathe,” she said in an interview Wednesday with McClatchy. “We go for walks. I can take Christian to the park. I can talk to people without worrying.”
McClatchy agreed not to name the city at Oliva’s request. She fears she could be kicked out of the country. She is currently staying on a tourist visa.
She’s biding her time before she can come back to the United States, she said. Her lawyer has filed multiple requests that she be paroled back into the United States and given an asylum hearing. Immigration attorney Bryan Johnson of New York has requested the Justice Department pursue criminal charges against Department of Homeland Security officials because of the way Oliva was treated at the Texas detention center.
Oliva was deported to Honduras six days after she shut herself in a bathroom of the Texas family detention center and cut her wrist.
I can breathe.
Lilian Oliva Bardales, who has again fled her home country, this time for Western Europe
In her last week at the Karnes County Residential Center, Oliva said she was taken from her young son, stripped naked in front of screaming staffers, put into isolation and then, back with her son, hidden at a hotel before being removed from the country.
After McClatchy wrote about Oliva’s case, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties opened an investigation into the case. DHS has asked Johnson to help investigators get in touch with Oliva to interview her, but he has said he’ll only help if she’s allowed back into the United States on parole.
DHS officials have said in response to Oliva’s case that they take the “health, safety and welfare” of all detainees seriously.
Immigration officials said Oliva was treated for a “surface-level abrasion” to her wrist and that an on-site medical professional confirmed that the injury was minor and not life-threatening. They said she was deported to Honduras after exhausting all her legal appeals before Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Johnson has called on the Justice Department to investigate Oliva’s treatment. He alleges that immigration officials deprived Oliva of her rights to due process and proper medical attention. He also said officials unlawfully separated her from her son. He called it kidnapping.
She should have been granted asylum in the first place.
Attorney Bryan Johnson
“Clearly, they violated her rights to such a degree that it was criminal,” he said. “It wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t negligent. It was intentional.”
Homeland Security officials had requested an interview with Oliva at the U.S. Embassy in Honduras, but they were unable to agree with Johnson about conditions, according to emails obtained by McClatchy.
Johnson questioned federal officials’ priorities, noting it took months for federal officials to even reach out to Oliva to ask about an interview.
“She should have been granted asylum in the first place,” Johnson said.
With the help of advocates, Oliva was able to purchase a plane ticket out of Honduras. Johnson said it was important to get her out of Central America to a safe place so he can continue to work on her case.
On Monday, for the first time in his life, Christian put on a backpack and was dropped off at school, Oliva said. He came home talking about the plastic car that he drove around. He likes the swings and slide at the park near their apartment, she said.
“We never went to a park in Tegucigalpa,” she said.
She’s looking for work caring for the elderly, but she said she has yet to find anything.
“I feel good,” she said. “I’m not afraid. Christian likes it. But I hope my case can be fixed. I want to go to the United States.”