Vladimir Fardin, a 9-year-old boy who was separated from his family and held in a shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children in the final days of the Trump administration has been released and is now back home in Haiti.
Vladimir had flown into the U.S. last Sunday with his older brother, Christian Laporte, a 19-year-old who was going to school at a college in Pleasant Hill, Calif., according to KQED news.
Customs and Border Protection officials at San Francisco airport refused to allow the two to enter the country on their visas, and ultimately put Laporte on a flight to the Dominican Republic while transferring Vladimir to a detention center for unaccompanied immigrant children. CBP officials said the older brother presented a student visa at the airport but was missing other required admissibility documents, and that the 9-year-old was deemed inadmissible due to previous violations of his tourist visa.
Johnny Sinodis, a lawyer with Van Der Hout LLP, the law firm representing the brothers’ family, told The Root that Vladimir’s release was finally secured after the 9-year-old spent over a week in detention by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Vladimir’s release came about through negotiations between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and his lawyers, said Sinodis, as ORR maintained that the 9-year-old couldn’t be released from their custody until he spent two weeks quarantining in their facility and had two negative COVID-19 tests.
“That policy does not apply to individuals like Vladimir who would not be released into a larger facility at ORR where he would then mix with a larger population of other children,” Sinodis said they told the agency.
After an emergency immigration hearing before a judge in San Francisco where Vladimir’s application to be admitted to the U.S. was withdrawn, the 9-year-old was allowed to board a plane to Haiti and returned home to his family on Wednesday.
“We believe that this case could have been handled differently from the outset,” said Sinodis, who added that it wasn’t necessary for CBP to separate the child from his family and detain him.
Sinodis credited the ultimate release of Vladimir to the headway the law firm was able to make with officials at ICE, but did not discount the idea that the recent shift in federal administration may have helped the process along.
“It’s really hard for me to tell you if this had happened three weeks ago, we would have had the same result,” said Sinodis. “I tend to think we would have had more obstacles. But definitely, the Biden Administration coming into office did not hurt.”
Nearly 70,000 immigrant children were held in federal custody in 2019. President Biden campaigned against the prolonged detention of immigrant children, but according to NBC News, he has delayed executive orders he promised to sign on his first day in office that would establish a task force to reunite children separated from their families by the Trump administration.
Sinodis emphasized that Vladimir spent over a week in government custody, though he had more support than most children in the immigration system do.
“For all the other children that don’t have the benefit of access to counsel and people within their family who have connections within the activist community [like Vladimir], they could be stuck in detention for much longer,” he said. “That’s really the scary part of this.”
Sinodis added that a child psychiatrist who worked on the case told immigration officials that the 9-year-old was traumatized by his experience in detention, as he had never spent any time away from his family.
“He was looking forward to being with his mom again.”