Seeking U.S. asylum in 2018—A Brazilian immigrant’s story

Felicia Persaud | 7/26/2018, 2:21 p.m.

May 28, 2018, a 35-year-old Brazilian mother and her son arrived at the U.S. southern border seeking asylum. The mother, known only as W.R. in her court affidavit, had left Brazil May 23, 2018, running away from an abusive husband and drug dealer, who had threatened her life and the life of her son, 9-year-old A.R.

W.R. said that on arriving near the southern border, she walked on foot for more than two hours through desert and fields to cross into the United States.

She had little more than a backpack that held the entirety of her savings, some jewelry, her passport and her son’s passports and their IDs, along with their birth certificates and her son’s vaccination record.

May 28, W.R. saw an individual she later found out was a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer and surrendered to him. This officer, she said in her affidavit, took all their belongings, including the little money she had, along with her jewelry, passports, IDs, other records, coats, hats and backpack.

W.R. said the officer addressed her in Spanish, but because she speaks Portuguese, he used his cellphone to translate text in an effort to communicate with her.

She was then asked to fill out some paperwork but did not understand what she was to do, so the officer called over another Border Patrol officer. As they awaited the arrival of this second officer, W.R. said the first officer, using his translation app on his phone, asked her why she had come to the United States. She told him she was “afraid of dying in my country.”

W.R. said when the second Border Patrol officer arrived, she and her son were loaded into a truck and taken to a detention facility somewhere in Arizona.

On arrival at that facility, was fingerprinted and photographed and told she and her son would only be at that location for “a few days.”

Soon after she was led to a cell but as she held her son and tried to take him with her, an officer stopped her and abruptly took A.R. away.

W.R. said A.R. began crying and calling out to her, but the officer quickly removed him and took him to another cell.

“I was placed in a cell that I believe was meant to hold 20 or so women,” she stated. “It was approximately 15 feet by 15 feet. There were approximately 90 other women in this cell. The cell had cement floors, and no beds or mattresses. There was not enough space to lie down. We were given aluminum sheets for warmth. It was very cold.”

W.R. said the cell had a small bathroom with no door and a video camera faced the toilet that recorded everything, including how often a detainee used the toilet.

Her son A.R. was taken to a similar cell and she said if she walked to the front of her cell and he walked to the front of his cell, they could see each other from afar.