Laura and her family at a press conference. Photos by Steve Gonzales/ Houston Chronicle
Unimaginably, the lows keep going lower. In Texas, Laura Maradiaga-Alvarado, an 11-year-old girl who fled death threats in El Salvador with her terrified family, may now be deported alone thanks to an immigration court's administrative error, an evil narcissist's pointless government shutdown, and the prevailing cruelty of his inept regime. Laura, her 15-year-old sister Adamaris, and her mother Dora arrived at the U.S. southern border in October; gang members had begun kidnapping and killing their family members after one relative witnessed a murder and testified in court, and one member of MS-13 had threatened to kill Adamaris and the rest of her family. At the border, they were detained, then released pending hearings on their asylum case; since then, they had attended all 10 of their appointments with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Still, they remained at the mercy of a system in chaos: Jeff Session's brutal refusal to protect victims of gang or domestic violence along with Trump's tantrum of a government shutdown has exacerbated a backlog of over 800,000 asylum cases - cases, to be clear, of desperate, voiceless human beings caught and used as pawns of monsters in power.
They got caught in that chaos at a shutdown-delayed March hearing where a translator told Dora that 11-year-old Laura's name was inexplicably not on the docket, but not to worry. Days later, Dora got a letter in English, which she cannot speak or read; this week, she learned it was a deportation order for Laura issued by the judge at the hearing. Their lawyer blames a callous immigration court in disarray and plans to move to reverse the order, but in this era there are no guarantees. "I don't want to leave my mom," a tearful Laura says. "I want to stay with her." Meanwhile, she attends a Houston middle school and hopes one day to become a police officer to “keep people safe from the bad guys.” She could be busy: This week, Trump tried again to deny migrants their rights, "threatened" to send them, plague-like, to sanctuary cities that would welcome them - "Dump away, asshole" - and incited racist violence against a member of Congress - all moves to "distance us from our own values through fear and anger...the function of terrorism." Now he seeks to deport an 11-year-old girl. "This is heart-wrenching. Family values? American values? Judeo-Christian values?" wrote Police chief Art Acevedo, who slammed the idea of separating children from families "trying to get them to a better place for a better tomorrow" based on a piece of paper. "The Nazis enforced their laws as well.. I am glad to be on the right side of history."