A Honduran woman has accused US border officials of ripping her infant daughter away from her as she was breastfeeding her at a detention center in Texas, according to a report.
The unnamed woman tearfully told her attorney, Natalia Cornelio, that when she resisted, she was promptly handcuffed.
Under the policy introduced in May, about 500 children have been separated from their parents, according to Miguel Nogueras, an assistant federal public defender for the Southern District of Texas in McAllen.
Some parents have claimed that they have been told their children were being taken away to be washed or cleaned up – but that they never see them again.
“It depends on who the agent is on that day. They’ll be told, ‘We’re going to separate your kids so they can bathe.’ And that’s not true,” Nogueras told CNN.
“It’s really hard to look in the eye of a mother or father who would plead for you — help me get my child back,” he added.
Cornelio, the attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, said: “The government is essentially torturing people by doing this.”
US Customs and Border Protection spokesman Carlos Diaz disputed the claims that immigration officials snatched the child as she was being breastfed.
“Nothing could be further from the truth and these allegations are unsubstantiated,” Diaz told CNN in a statement.
In another case, another undocumented Honduran immigrant stood in shackles before a judge Tuesday as he faced sentencing for entering the US illegally.
“I would ask that you give me a short sentence because my daughter is here,” Oman Rodriguez-Avila, who had been separated from his 8-year-old girl, pleaded to the judge.
The federal judge then sentenced Rodriguez-Avila to 15 days in the slammer because he was previously convicted for the same offense in 2012 and deported.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department’s Southern District of Texas said she could not comment on the number of parents who had been separated from their children because of the zero-tolerance policy.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly recently defended the practice of separating children from their moms.
“The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever,” he told NPR. “But the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States, and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.”