Some of the children who were separated from their parents after entering the country to seek asylum have been returned, and their stories are devastating. One immigrant mother reunited with her daughter spoke to the Associated Press, and there's one thing she said that shows just how impossible this separation can be.
Buena Ventura Martin Godinez had her 7-year-old daughter, Janne, returned to her on Sunday in Miami. They hadn't seen each other in nearly two months and had only been able to talk on the phone since Janne was separated from her dad when the two tried to cross the Southwestern border. Martin Godinez told the AP that her family was fleeing gang violence in their native Guatemala.
Upon seeing her daughter, Martin Godinez, started to cry and told the AP that she was happy to have her daughter back. After advising people to find another country for refuge, she continued through her tears:
People don't have a heart. Your child is a treasure and to have them separated is very painful.
Martin Godinez's husband, Pedro, is in jail in Atlanta. He was convicted of misdemeanor offense of illegal entry into the U.S., and will likely be deported, The Miami Herald reported. Janne was sent across the country to a child welfare agency in Michigan.
The time that Janne was in government custody was extremely worrying to the family. Martin Godinez said on camera that she was worried she might never see her daughter again thanks to the rumors she'd heard about the government putting such kids up for adoption. The child's uncle Nicolas Godinez also told the AP he'd heard those rumors about getting her back. "To receive her is the most marvelous thing I could receive," he told the news agency.
In the end mother and daughetr were reunited. But the entire family is not back together. ""I feel very happy, now and to complete my joy I would like to have my husband released," Martin Godinez told the AP.
Martin Godinez is living near Miami with family members, and has been since she was released from custody with her infant son. She wears an ankle-monitoring bracelet as she awaits a court date for her asylum claim. In the meantime she is working at a plant nursery for $9 an hour and must pay for childcare.
She and her daughter did not enter the country together. Martin Godinez came in May and her husband entered with Janne a few weeks later. They were separated — which led to her time alone in Michigan. Martin Godinez and the infant son were not. They did have to spend some nights on a detention facility cement floor, but they were never separated.
President Trump, whose administration started the "zero tolerance" policy that led to family separations, signed an executive order to try to stop them. What it did not do was set up a quick and easy way to reunite families that had been separated.
The manner in which Martin Godinez and her daughter were reconnected was not clear, but in many cases family members must apply to be sponsors with the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement.
On Sunday The New York Times reported that the families who have been reunited, like Martin Godinez's partially was, are the minority — not the majority. There still remains no plan to reunite families proactively, and the government's plan consists of establishing contact, coordinating databases among agencies, and allowing parents the option to be deported with their children. Parents are still expected to make the phone call that starts the process.
Martin Godinez and her daughter's reunification is one that many others are still dreaming of.