As a solution to the overwhelming issue of thousands of children being left in the states after their parents are deported, Americans have started to silently adopt children of immigrants without their parents knowing.
As Araceli Ramos Bonillas, mother of toddler Alexa Bonillas, gets dragged away, she yells “they want to steal my daughter!” Araceli was deported to El Salvador without her daughter after attempting to enter the United States. She had hopes of escaping her abusive husband and obtaining asylum; however, she was denied asylum based on a false accusation filed by her husband. She was sent back to a dangerous situation in El Salvador. Her daughter, on the other hand, was put into the foster home of Sherri and Kory Barr, a couple from Michigan. While in the process of adoption, the Barr’s claimed Alexa would be abused and in an unsafe environment if she was sent to live with her mother again. Under those arguments, the Barr’s were granted custody of Alexa. Araceli claimed that she had been forced to sign a waiver to leave her daughter behind, saying that an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “agent… forced me to sign.” On the date of her daughter’s adoption, Araceli was in El Salvador, uninformed about what had transpired.
Unfortunately, the brutal separation of Araceli and Alexa could become the story of countless other immigrants. Last summer, under Trump’s “zero-tolerance policy,” 300 migrant parents were deported to Central America without their children, opening up opportunities for more forced separation and adoption stories like Alexa’s. Just last year, more than 76,000 people illegally entered the U.S, many others crossing legally. With such an overwhelming amount of people, it is nearly impossible to keep track of them all, so it is becoming easier for situations like Araceli and Alexa’s to go unnoticed. The ICE agents forced Araceli to sign an adoption waiver, and if there is no one checking the actions of those in power such as these ICE agents, events like this will continue to happen. After over a year of being separated, Alexa was returned to her mother. She cried and begged for Michigan, even having forgotten how to speak Spanish. The connection between mother and daughter was lost during the traumatizing time they spent apart. The effects of the separation for Araceli and Alexa will surely be lifelong. Araceli now urges other parents to fight for their children, stating that “they are our children, not theirs.”