Evanston asylum seeker says she hasn't seen daughter in 3 years

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018
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On Tuesday Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan called on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to immediately end enforcement of the "zero tolerance" policy separating immigrant c

EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) -- On Tuesday Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan called on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to immediately end enforcement of the "zero tolerance" policy separating immigrant children from their parents.

The policy is extracting a heavy toll from families.

For El Salvadorian mother Juana, fleeing her country for the United States was all about protecting her children from violent gangs, especially her daughter Yesica.

"My daughter was being threatened, my husband wanted to protect her, he basically told gangs to leave her alone and four days later he was killed," she said.

Speaking through an interpreter, the 42-year-old said she hasn't seen her daughter since immigration officials separated Yesica from her mother and two younger brothers three years ago.

Yesica was deported, but detained at the border when she tried coming back to the United States to be with her family.

"I do not sleep, it's difficult for me to eat," Juana said. "I can barely stay alive since she was taken from me."

Juana has been staying in Evanston while seeking asylum. She now watches as hundreds as other families separated from their children live through the same unbearable pain she has endured for three years.

While President Trump is not backing down from his zero tolerance policy for prosecuting all cases of illegal entry into the United States, doctors warned the administration about the negative health effects that come with separation.

"Children who have adverse child experiences are more likely to have mental health challenges like depression, anxiety and suicide. They also are more likely to experience health challenges like heart disease and diabetes," said Dr. Matthew Davis, Lurie Children's Hospital.

Davis said separating children from parents should only be done if parents are a danger to their children.

"As a pediatrician, I worry about any situation where we are putting children in harm's way in order to have a certain policy in effect," he said.

Democrats and many other organizations have called for an end to the policy. Many Republicans, including Illinois Congressmen Peter Roskam, Randy Hultgren and Adam Kinzniger have also said the practice of splitting children from their families must end.

With eyes on midterms, Trump embraces immigration fight

Calling the shots as his West Wing clears out, President Donald Trump sees his hard-line immigration stance as a winning issue heading into a midterm election he views as a referendum on his protectionist policies.

"You have to stand for something," Trump declared Tuesday, as he defended his administration's immigration policy amid mounting criticism over the forced separation of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. The chorus of condemnation includes Democrats, as well as Republicans, who are increasingly worried that reports about bereft children taken from their parents could damage the GOP's chances in November.

Still, Trump believes that his immigration pledges helped win him the presidency and that his most loyal supporters want him to follow through. He made a rare trip to Capitol Hill late Tuesday to meet with GOP legislators and endorse a pair of bills that would keep detained families together, among other changes, but he remains confident that projecting toughness on immigration is the right call, said five White House officials and outside advisers who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

"It's amazing how people are surprised that he's keeping the promises he made on the campaign trail now," said Trump political adviser Bill Stepien.

While the White House signaled Trump may be open to a narrow fix to deal with the problem, the president spent the day stressing immigration policies that he has championed throughout his surprise political career. He has resisted calls to reverse the separation policy, saying any change must come through Congress.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.