February 22, 2024

After being cuffed and shackled, Keldy became a defendant in a criminal case, facing charges of a misdemeanor. With just two phone numbers committed to memory, she was in the complicated position of trying to navigate the United States immigration system for herself and her family. She was unable to communicate with her children, who were listed as “unaccompanied alien minors” after being taken into custody at the U.S. border.

Keldy was detained in a facility run by ICE in El Paso, where she underwent an asylum screening process to establish whether she had a “credible fear” of persecution in her home country. Although she eventually passed this test, the government was increasingly interested in detaining asylum seekers for the entire duration of their legal proceedings, complicating her situation.

By November of 2017, a pattern of separating children from their parents at the border was beginning to draw public attention. The public defender of several parents argued that the government was effectively “kidnapping their children.” This initiative affected Keldy and around 280 others.

Keldy was moved to a dormitory block with fellow detainees where interaction with others was strictly monitored. Six months after her initial screening, Keldy was still in detention, waiting for a court hearing. The longer it took for her to be granted relief, the more concerned she grew for her children.

El Paso was one of the less favorable places in the U.S. for someone to apply for asylum, so Keldy’s future remained uncertain as she awaited her court date.