EL PASO, Texas (AP) — They came from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, with children in tow. Some were fleeing violence. Others were looking for a better life.
They didn’t know they would be separated from their children after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border due to a zero-tolerance policy that called for prosecuting every adult who entered the country illegally.
Five parents out of a group of more than 30 who were recently released from federal custody pending the outcome of their immigration and asylum cases shared their stories Monday during a news conference in El Paso. They have found temporary shelter with a Texas charity organization, with their locations tracked by ankle monitors.
Some have no idea where their children are. Others do but can’t say with any certainty when they might see them again. Their children range in age from 4 to 17.
One father said he felt broken without his teenage son, while another cried over his daughter. A mother wiped away tears, fearing that her 4-year-old son believes she abandoned him.
They are just a few of the many families who have been thrust into the center of a long simmering debate over how to handle the flood of migrants on the southern border. The five immigrants spoke on the condition that their last names not be used for fear of deportation by U.S. authorities.
Detained on June 15, she and her 6-year-old son clung to each other after learning they would be separated and that she was being sent to jail.
The 40-year-old single mother from Honduras asked that they be deported together immediately. She was told it was too late. She let go and persuaded her son to do the same after officials said they would be separated — one way or another.
Iris learned her son is somewhere in Arizona after a social worker contacted a relative. Most of the 32 recently released parents are likely to leave El Paso as they obtain more information and seek out their children.
“I go to sleep at night, and the first thing I do is dream of my son,” she said.