Woman Who Attempted Suicide To Free Kids From Family Detention Wins Asylum

Samira Hakimi and her two children were freed. But her sister and newborn are still locked up at the Karnes detention center.

A woman locked up in a family detention center with her two kids was released last week following a suicide attempt earlier in the month.   

Samira Hakimi, an Afghan national, made the attempt on her life in a desperate bid to free her children from the Karnes County Residential Center in Texas. The family had been detained there for six months after crossing into the United States from Mexico through a legal port of entry.

The prolonged detention appears to defy a 2015 ruling by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee requiring immigration authorities to generally free detained families after three weeks to avoid violating the 1997 Flores settlement, which specifies that children should be held in the least-restrictive setting possible and usually freed.

Hakimi and her two children finally won release last week after an immigration judge based at the center approved their asylum claims.

Hakimi and her family have established a high school and multi-branch university based in Kabul that taught a Western curricula in both English and Dari. The private university reserved more than half its scholarships for women.

The family faced repeated threats since 2013 from the Taliban for their work. That year, the family moved onto the university campus to avoid commuting and contracted private security guards. Last year, they fled to South America, and continued to Mexico and eventually Texas, where they requested asylum.

Hakimi is now in San Francisco with her two children, according to RAICES, a nonprofit group that helps provide legal services to detained families.

But several additional family members remain detained, even though they entered the United States at the same time and have similar cases.  

Hakimi’s sister, Nazifa, is still locked up at Karnes with her 10-month-old baby. Nazifa had been pregnant when she and her sister first fled Afghanistan with their families.

“We know that Samira was granted asylum,” Amy Fischer, the policy director for RAICES, told HuffPost, adding that the vast majority of family detainees are released shortly after their “credible fear” interviews ― the first step toward applying.

“We see no reason why this family ought to remain detained, particularly because there is such a small baby,” Fischer said. “We’re asking for ICE to release them immediately. Since Samira left, [Nazifa] is all alone. She doesn’t speak English, she only speaks Dari. She’s in there with her tiny baby without a single person to talk to.”

The husbands of both Hakimi and Nazifa also remain detained at all-male immigrant detention centers in Texas.

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.



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