Brazil woman at heart of immigration suit relieved by ruling but says battle isn’t over

Jocelyn, an asylum seeker from Brazil, entered the U.S. with her son last August and was reunited with him this month.
(Aaron Montes / For the Los Angeles Times)

A Brazilian woman and immigrant rights activists say they are happy and relieved that a federal judge has ordered government officials to reunite migrant parents with their children. But they say their battle, on behalf of the woman and other immigrants, is far from over.

Jocelyn, 32, is one of two plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging Trump administration immigration policies. On Tuesday night, the judge hearing the case issued a preliminary injunction that calls for all children affected by the “zero tolerance” policy be reunited with their parents in 30 days.

Jocelyn, who came to the U.S. last August in hopes of receiving asylum, was held in the El Paso area while her teenage son was sent to a shelter in Chicago.


She and advocates praised U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, a George W. Bush appointee in San Diego, for issuing the preliminary injunction.

“I got involved in this cause to be reunited with my son,” she said Wednesday in El Paso. “And for the mothers who went through this with me. I was in jail for seven months. This is unjust.”

Jocelyn, who speaks Portuguese and picked up Spanish while talking with other parents in detention, spoke with members of the local and national media during a news conference at Casa Vides shelter in downtown El Paso.

Jocelyn and the other plaintiffs are identified in court documents only by initials, and her attorneys say they are withholding her full name for her protection. She has said she left Brazil to flee an abusive relationship and because gangs were threatening her son.

She has been living in Annunciation House, a local nonprofit that provides support to immigrants since she was released in April. And was reunited with her 15-year-old son, James, earlier this month.

This week, more than 32 migrant parents were released from detention in El Paso after President Trump signed an executive order ending the separation of families. In April, the Trump administration ordered the separation of parents from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border under the “zero tolerance” policy.


Now, Jocelyn and immigrant rights advocates in El Paso are calling for the release of all parents and children from detention. They’d be welcomed in migrant-friendly shelters, they said.

“They have the power to let everyone go, right now,” said Taylor Levy, Annunciation House legal coordinator.

Linda Rivas, executive director and managing attorney at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, said the court’s decision to reunite families is good but won’t be the end of a continued struggle to release immigrants in detention.

“We can’t stop our fight and we can’t take our eyes off what continues to happen on our borders,” she said. “We know that family detention will likely be coming soon, and we need to stand against it.”

Jocelyn, who was in high spirits on Wednesday, said her son is happier to be with her. Her attention is on obtaining asylum and hopes the court ruling will help reunite other mothers with their children.

“I ask that God helps us in this case,” she said. “There is so much injustice with the moms and the separation of their children. This is very difficult for families.”

Montes is a special correspondent.