Franc fled Cameroon when his work for an anti-corruption organization suddenly made him a political target. On three separate occasions, secret police arrested Franc, detained him, and threatened his life. After his third arrest, the police said they were coming for Franc’s 11 year-old daughter, Adrienne. Franc accepted that his work could create danger for himself, but he refused to put his daughter at risk. Fearing for their lives, Franc and Adrienne boarded a plane for Costa Rica. His plan was to travel to the U.S./ Mexico border, ask for asylum, and live with his brother in Hyattsville, Maryland until his asylum case was resolved.
When Franc reached a border town fifty miles from Texas, he began hearing rumors that migrant parents and their children were being held in separate facilities. “That could not be right,” he thought. “Children need their parents to survive. How would a baby survive without its mother?” Desperate to reach his brother in Maryland, Franc and Adrienne continued on and requested asylum at the border. The father and daughter were separated by ICE officials shortly thereafter.
For 25 miserable days, Franc did not know what happened to Adrienne, where she was detained, or if she was OK. Franc scarcely ate or slept the whole time. He became angry and on edge. After Franc’s brother posted bond, he was released and reunited with Adrienne. But she wasn’t the same happy girl he remembered. When he went to hug her, she didn’t want to be touched. When he asked her questions, she gave him one word answers. And her demeanour didn’t change after they arrived in Maryland. Although they were physically safe, both Franc and Adrienne had suffered deep emotional scars from their journey and subsequent detention. Franc’s brother — himself an asylee and former AsylumWorks client — suggested they go there for help.
AsylumWorks worked quickly to find a French-speaking child psychologist who would work with Adrienne for free. Uninterested in receiving outside mental health services, Franc did slowly open up to AW’s trained staff about his feelings. He confided that he blamed himself for Adrienne’s trauma. AW staff helped Franc process his guilt and reframe how he thought about himself, his experience in detention, and his relationship with his daughter. In time, AW staff coached Franc to share his feelings with his daughter — something he’d never done before. In that conversation, Franc asked for forgiveness and his daughter readily gave it. Franc and Adrienne continue to work on their relationship.