This 15-Year-Old Guatemalan Girl Spent Her Quinceañera Locked Up in Immigrant Detention Center

Lead Photo: Photo by GemaBlanton/ iStock / Getty Images Plus
Photo by GemaBlanton/ iStock / Getty Images Plus
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When she woke up on March 15, 2018, the day of her 15th birthday, Astrid should have felt stressed, but not about her future. But instead of worrying about whether her quinceañera would go off without a hitch, Astrid found herself in an immigrant detention center – the only teenage girl in the Pennsylvania facility – surrounded by strangers in a cold, unwelcoming environment.

About a month ago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrived at her house to arrest her and her father, Arturo. “This girl and her father were sleeping in their beds when they were woken up by ICE agents,” the family’s lawyer, Carol Anne Donohoe, told Capital & Main. “It doesn’t sound like there was any due process, any warrant – anything. The total lack of respect for the law that this agency is showing, it’s like open season on immigrants. It’s terrifying, and it’s terrifying entire communities.”

Trump didn’t create the current environment that’s driving fear into immigrant communities. As a matter of fact, the Obama Administration created the Berks Family Residential Facility – where Astrid and Arturo are currently detained – after a wave of Central American refugees crossed the border a few years ago. Astrid and Arturo, who identify as indigenous, arrived in the United States from Guatemala in 2015 to flee violence in the Central American country. Astrid attends Easton Area Middle School in Easton, Pennsylvania and for months, she planned her coming-of-age celebration. Now, she shares a cell with her father. During the day, she goes to a classroom for children 12 and up – one that’s not designed to fit everyone’s needs. Astrid sometimes serves as an interpreter for the children, some of whom only speak K’iche’.

As she tried to forget her birthday – one that should have been memorable – visitors brought her cupcakes, nail polish, and cards to try to bring her some joy. Amnesty International USA has called for her freedom. Learn more about her story here.

March 24 at 5:15 p.m. ET: On Friday, Astrid and her father were released from detention. “This decision is a huge relief for Astrid and Arturo. Already, Astrid was forced to celebrate her quinceañera while imprisoned. She deserves to be back in her classroom with teachers and friends,” said Sheetal Dhir, senior campaigner at Amnesty International USA. “It goes against our country’s shared values of equality and dignity to lock up parents and children for seeking safety. We will continue to fight to ensure that people seeking protection are given a fair hearing and humane treatment.”