AP NEWS

ORR must send foster application to Texas family

April 11, 2019

A federal judge has ordered the Office of Refugee Resettlement to allow a Central Texas couple to apply to foster a Guatemalan boy who has been in that agency’s custody for 10 months.

U.S. District Judge Fernando Rodriguez issued his order Wednesday morning, directing the ORR to send a foster family application to Holly and Matthew Sewell, who have agreed to care for the child, who was separated from his father during the height of zero tolerance family separations last May.

The ORR must send the application by Friday, court records indicate.

The ORR has disqualified the Sewell’s as a potential sponsor for 9-year-old Byron, or B.X. as he’s known in court documents, because they did not have a previous relationship with the boy prior to when he crossed the Rio Grande illegally with his father, David Xol, on May 18, 2018.

ORR regulations require potential sponsors who are not related to a minor in federal custody to have a relationship with the family that existed before they crossed the river and turned themselves into Border Patrol.

Rodriguez directed ORR to consider the Sewell’s without regard to ORR’s pre-existing relationship requirement.

The Sewell’s first learned of Byron’s case in September of last year, after numerous attempts at reaching out to immigration lawyers about trying to foster a child separated at the border.

Holly is a stay-at-home mother involved in local theater and who sits on two commissions in the City of Buda while Matthew is a senior software engineer working in Austin.

After a friend put them in touch with Byron’s attorney, Ricardo de Anda, the couple met the child’s parents, Xol and his wife, Florinda, through video chat. Byron also met the couple and was given a tour of their home.

All of the parties, Byron, Holly and Matthew Sewell, and David and Florinda Xol, believe that Byron being placed with the Sewell’s is in his best interest to reduce the psychological harm he has incurred while remaining in ORR custody, court documents indicate.

The ORR has 15 business days to determine whether the Sewell’s are a suitable sponsor family for Byron after receiving the couple’s foster application.

Xol fled to the United States from Guatemala after being attacked by gang members, who threatened his son life, according to court documents. Xol has said in court documents that he sought asylum due to fear of persecution based on his evangelical Christian religion and he anti-gang political opinion.

According to Xol, while in custody, a Border Patrol agent said if he persisted in his asylum claim he would remain in detention and Byron would be placed for adoption.

So Xol said he signed a document he believed would result in both he and his son being deported.

Instead, he was deported and Byron was placed in ORR custody, where he has remained for nearly a year.

mreagan@brownsvilleherald.com