Grandmother separated at border hasn't seen grandson with autism, epilepsy in months
SANTA TERESA, N.M. (KFOX14) —
A woman hasn't seen her grandson, who has severe epilepsy and autism, since they were separated at the Santa Teresa port of entry nearly 10 months ago.
Maria de Bastos and her 16-year-old grandson, Matheus da Silva Bastos, arrived at the port of entry in New Mexico on Aug. 25, according to da Bastos' attorney. They told federal authorities they sought asylum.
In Brazil, de Bastos discovered her grandson coming home "beat up" from school, according to her immigration attorney, Ed Beckett. De Bastos went to the police and media. The principal was fired, according to Beckett, and the principal's brother was a police officer who allegedly threatened de Bastos while off duty.
"She basically shines light on discrimination against disabled children," Ed Beckett said. "I believe that a police officer that basically threatens your life has the tools and resources to go after you."
De Bastos and her grandson were held together at the port of entry for two days before being separated, according to Beckett. The grandson was classified as an unaccompanied minor, according to paperwork from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
"When she came in, she did have legal paperwork to show she was the legitimate guardian, a court order from Brazil. CBP ignored the paperwork," Beckett said.
Da Silva Bastos is at a state-run center in Connecticut, according to Beckett. His social worker wrote a letter, saying da Silva Bastos is "having a lot of difficulties in his new surroundings." The social worker also wrote that having his grandmother with him would be "beneficial" as he has "specialized needs and in need of a consistent caretaker."
Beckett acknowledges there are challenges with de Bastos' case. He said it will be difficult to prove that it's a country-wide persecution instead of local and that de Bastos has had a visa revoked in the past.
In 2007, de Bastos admitted to a CBP agent at the JFK airport that she made money babysitting. De Bastos was deported and banned from the U.S. for five years, which Beckett said she complied with.
The DHS paperwork from August shows de Bastos does not have a criminal record.
"She's not a threat to public safety. She's not a threat to national security. She's been truthful. She has a legitimate asylum claim," Beckett said.
Beckett said he filed closing arguments in de Bastos' asylum case last month. He expects to have the written decision from the judge by early July.
ICE told KFOX14 De Bastos applied for admission at the Santa Teresa port of entry on August 25. ICE said De Bastos was previously removed from the U.S. in 2007 and was found to be inadmissible and turned over to the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement . She remains in ICE custody pending admission of hr immigration proceedings.