During the period when the Trump administration was enforcing a zero tolerance policy with regards to immigrant families arriving at the border, thousands of children were separated from their families when they arrived with their parents, seeking a better life. Many of these families came from Central America — but the youngest child separated from his parents at the border actually arrived from much farther away, The New York Times reported.
Constatin Mutu was four months old when American authorities separated him from his parents, Vasile and Florentina Mutu, according to The New York Times. At that moment, he became one of the 2,654 cases of family separation that the ACLU has confirmed, although The New York Times reported in April that there are still potentially thousands of separated immigrant children who are unaccounted for.
Whereas most people arriving at the United States' southern border come from either Mexico or the so-called Northern Triangle nations of Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador, according to the Pew Research Center, the Mutus came from somewhere that hardly makes a dent in the immigration statistics: Romania. As members of the often persecuted Roma minority, the Mutus also arrived in the United States seeking a safer and more prosperous life. Here's what you need to know about Constatin's case.
Why Did Constantin's Family Leave Romania?
The Roma make up the largest ethnic minority in Europe, according to Vox Europ, but Europeans across the spectrum discriminate against them heavily — sometimes even to the point of forced sterilization, according to the European Roma Rights Center. This is despite the fact that the Roma have lived in Europe for over a millennium, after migrating from somewhere in what is now India before the turn of the first millennium, according to the Holocaust Encyclopedia. One of the biggest Roma populations lives in Romania, according to Reuters, and 90% of them live in extreme poverty.
This was the world, then, that the Mutus were attempting to escape. According to The New York Times, they heard from a former neighbor who had emigrated to the United States that there was money to be made and opportunities to be found for their children — so they sold their house in order to make the trip.
What Happened To Constantin's Family At The Border?
Vasile and Florentina got separated before crossing the border, and U.S. officials picked up Vasile along with Constantin, according to The Times. When Vasile was put into U.S. custody, they took Constantin away from him, as was the process under the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy. Vasile stayed in detention for two months before agreeing to deportation under the understanding that Constantin would come with him. Before she could be arrested by American authorities, Florentina's family members heard about it and raised enough money to bring her back home, per The Times.
What Happened To Constantin?
According to The Times, Constantin was sent to a foster family in Michigan, where he stayed for five months — long enough for him to become so attached to his foster parents that he was despondent when they finally took him back to Romania to be reunited with his birth parents when he was 9 months old. Now, The Times wrote, he's experiencing developmental delays and, at 18 months old, still can't walk on his own or say any words.
“He’s been spoiled. He lived comfortably there, in a decent house. Not like we live here,” Florentina told The Times. “He is not the same as he would be if we had raised him.”
The Mutus have been living an itinerant lifestyle in Europe as they save up to buy a new home, and according to The Times, they'd still like to return to the United States — if they could save up the money for it. Meanwhile, the family separation crisis is far from resolved. As CNN reported in January, the government still doesn't know how many children were separated from their families, and the process of identifying the children and reuniting them with their families has proved very challenging.
Constantin Mutu, then, is one of the lucky ones who was reunited with his family — but now he's right back in the poverty that his parents tried to escape to begin with.