Members of Congress will visit the Texas family detention center Monday, where a teen mom cut her wrist and was hastily deported six days later. The case of Lilian Oliva Bardales, 19, and her 4-year-old son, is one of several negative reports that the eight Democrats will want to learn more about when they visit the Karnes County Residential Center.
In an exclusive interview with McClatchy, Oliva described a harrowing last week at the south Texas facility.
Staff discovered her crying and bleeding in the bathroom. She was then rushed to the medical clinic, where she was forced to remove all her clothes and dressed in a long, heavy, vest-like robe that chaffed when she tried to sleep. Her son was taken away from her, and she was placed on suicide watch for several days. She was deported less than a week later after spending the last night at a hotel as her lawyers searched for her.
Immigration officials say Oliva exhausted her legal appeals and was rightfully deported after receiving appropriate health care, including mental services.
Her lawyer, Bryan Johnson, said she should never have been deported. On Monday, he plans to ask the Suffolk County Family Court in New York to grant guardianship of Oliva to family friends living in New York, where he practices. He said she’s eligible for special immigrant juvenile status because she is under age 21 and can’t return to her family.
The challenge, however, is she needs to be in the United States to attain the status.
“That’s unclear how we’re going to do that,” Johnson said Monday. “One way or another, we’re going to get it done.”
More than 1,000 parents and children are being held at three family detention centers in Karnes City and Dilley Texas., and Berks County, Pa. The eight members of Congress will visit the two Texas facilities on Monday and Tuesday. The Democratic representatives include Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona, Luis V. Gutiérrez of Illinois, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, and Zoe Lofgren, Lucille Roybal-Allard and Judy Chu of California.
Chu said family detention is retraumatizing these families.
“Mothers are losing hope. We’ve heard stories of mothers attempting suicide rather than be pent-up any longer. Family detention is a clear contradiction to our values.”