'He Didn’t Recognize Me': Migrant Parents Are Slowly Being Reunited With Their Deeply Traumatized Children

Image for article titled 'He Didn’t Recognize Me': Migrant Parents Are Slowly Being Reunited With Their Deeply Traumatized Children
Photo: Getty Images

The Trump administration has failed to meet a court-ordered deadline to reunify dozens of migrant children under the age of five with their families, which is no surprise since this entire cruel enterprise has been reckless from the start. And as Politico reports, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw is losing patience.


“These are firm deadlines,” Sabraw said during a Tuesday hearing in a San Diego court. “They are not aspirational goals. But clearly, the Trump administration disagreed; despite the deadline, it currently maintains custody of 102 children of that age group.

More from Politico:

Of those [102 children], 59 children are eligible to reunite with their parents, the Justice Department said in a Tuesday court filing. Thirty-four parents cleared background and parentage checks, and another 25 parents had checks pending.

Four children have been reunited with parents already. Another 12 arrived at the border with parents who have been deported, but also could be eligible for reunification.

Sabraw acknowledged Tuesday that connecting children with deported parents will be complicated, but said “they are part of the class and they do deserve to be reunited.”

But even for the few families that have been reunited with their children, the reunion process has often been nightmarish and riddled with physical and emotional barriers. Most parents with children under five are released into the United States with ankle monitors to, as one Immigration and Customs Enforcement official nauseatingly put, “encourage compliance.” This is part of the same so-called “catch and release” policy that President Trump vowed to end.

The New York Times published a piece with anecdotes from some of the migrant families who were recently reunited with their children after being separated from them due to the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy. The stories are agonizing. One mother reported that her potty trained child had reverted back to diapers, while another says her children don’t call her “mami” anymore. Two mothers claimed their children no longer recognize them:

“He didn’t recognize me,” said Mirce Alba Lopez, 31, of her 3-year-old son, Ederson, her eyes welling up with tears. “My joy turned temporarily to sadness.”

For Milka Pablo, 35, it was no different. Her 3-year-old daughter, Darly, screamed and tried to wiggle free from her mother’s embrace.

“I want Miss. I want Miss,” Darly cried, calling for the social worker at the shelter where she had been living since mother and daughter were separated by federal agents at the southwestern border.

You can read more of that devastating report here.


The Noble Renard

My heart breaks for these kids and for their mothers and their fathers who have to deal with this.

The shit that happens to fathers too is also a majorly unreported part of this story. There’s a reason you’re hearing pretty much only about mothers and children; because there are basically no facilities where fathers and their children are allowed to be together. Almost universally, kids have been separated from their fathers for years, and if an entire family arrives together, the father is separated and sent to a male-only detention center while the mother and children are sent to a family detention center.

When I volunteered at the Karnes Family Detention Center a few years back, I helped get released on bond a woman who was detained with her early teens kid. He was a sweet kid, too, and had been very talkative and friendly in the first few times I met him. The last time I talked to the family, in helping them go over the next steps of the process as they were about to be released, he was withdrawn and sad. I asked his mom what was up, and she told me that he had just talked to their dad. They’d all crossed together, and he was detained about an hour away in Pearsall, TX. He’d been ordered deported that morning. He’d be going back to his country, while the mom and kid would get a chance to live in the United States while they fought their case. So the kid was realizing that even though he’d be “free,” he might never see his dad again.

I haven’t thought of that kid in a while, but fuck, reminded me of how helpless I felt in the face of the system we have. It’s a system of undiluted misery that, in any moral and just society, would be smashed.