Dutch father held at detention center in Texas after crossing US border illegally
A 58-year-old man from the Netherlands has been detained for almost a month in an American detention center in El Paso (Texas) near the border with Mexico. This happened after a desperate attempt to attend the custody hearing of his three daughters (11, 10, and 5 years old).
Frank Vingerhoed, a Dutch national from Emmen, is being detained under suspicion of having crossed the Mexican-American border illegally, reports Dagblad van het Noorden. “He wanted to attend a lawsuit over custody of his three daughters, but he did not enter the US. He crossed the border illegally out of sheer desperation,” says his sister.
The father initially spent five weeks in a hotel near Mexico and tried to enter the United States with a visa. After his access was denied, the 58-year-old crossed the border illegally on the night of 2 to 3 November. He reportedly walked through the desert for about twelve hours, swam across the Rio Grande from Mexico to US territory.
“He almost drowned. Once in America, he was almost immediately arrested by the American border police,” says his sister, who is still in sporadic contact with her brother.
He is currently being held at the Service Processing Center in El Paso, which is part of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This was confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which indicated that it can do little to help the Dutchman, as he is currently deemed as an “unwanted alien.”
Over the past year, the detention center has housed some 10,000 prisoners, most of whom (86 percent) are from Mexico. The rest are from countries including Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
According to his sister, Vingerhoed is the only European to be held in a private prison. He is still being kept under “appalling conditions in an American cell with 40 others,” she says.
“it’s a hopeless situation. How long will they hold him? I am just desperate and hope someone will do something for him,” pleads his sister.
He tried to enter the United States for a court hearing over custody arrangements of his children. However, with the corona pandemic, entering the US was difficult. To make matters worse, prior to going back to the Netherlands, the man, his ex-wife, and their children resided in the US illegally.
In a desperate attempt to get to the court hearing, he flew to Mexico. There he spent five weeks in a hotel along the Mexican American border trying to enter the US.
The Dutchman has been detained for a month now, and there are no prospects for release. He also does not know whether he will be prosecuted or deported. Moreover, he has not been assigned a lawyer.
“It’s hopeless. They say no one can get out because of corona. So there is no clarity whatsoever when he is allowed out of the detention center.”
“Due to the pandemic, visiting detainees by embassy staff is unfortunately not possible. This is especially true in the US where all correctional facilities are in complete lockdown. Where possible, we maintain contact by telephone, but because many detainees are kept in quarantine, there is unfortunately not always the opportunity to do so,” says Willemien Veldman on behalf of the Dutch Foreign Ministry.