Upworthy spoke to Tahirih Atlanta Executive Director, Shana Tabak, and actor Penn Badgley about the case of Tahirih client, Vilma, an asylum seeker from Guatemala who has been detained and separated from her child since May 2018. Vilma and her daughter arrived in the U.S. during the “zero-tolerance” policy, seeking asylum from severe domestic violence.
“They had Vilma sign papers relinquishing her custody of her daughter for 90 days,” said Tabak. “Vilma did not understand what she was signing because she does not read or write in any language. She’s an indigenous Mam speaker, who at the time spoke very little Spanish and no English.”
Her daughter was torn from her afterwards, and they have been separated since. Yeisvi was sent to foster care in Arizona, while Vilma was sent to Irwin Detention Center in Georgia. The complications in her case have only escalated since then.
Badgley, accompanied Tabak on a trip to Irwin Detention Center to visit Vilma, and to help advocate for her release.
“I expressly do not believe that every problem is made better by adding a celebrity,” Badgley told Upworthy. He expressed that all individuals need to use their voices to speak up for justice.
“There are a lot of really hard-working and intelligent people who are hitting the books to figure out, okay, where is the legal justification for this treatment of other human beings? They’re seeking asylum. It stands to be repeated, that is not a crime. If anything, they’re victims of crime before they come here. They’re seeking safety. They’re seeking refuge. These are fundamental principles this country is supposed to have been founded on…Our country claims to be a beacon of hope and light and justice in the world, and yet we have many stains on our historical record. These are deep, blood-red stains. If we want to be Americans, which ones do we want to be?” said Badgley.