Sunday, April 21, 2024

Young children separated at the border don’t recognize their parents

One mother had waited four months to wrap her arms around her little boy. Another had waited three months to see her little girl again, but when the reunions finally happened yesterday in Phoenix, the mothers were met with cries of rejection from their children.

“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 border.

The tearful reunions, ordered by a court in California, came as the government said that it would release hundreds of migrant families wearing ankle bracelet monitors into the United States, effectively returning to the “catch and release” policy that President Trump promised to eliminate. Trump administration officials also said that they have stopped referring migrant adults who enter the United States with children for prosecution.

Government officials said they were struggling to meet Tuesday’s court-ordered deadline to reunite 102 migrant children under 5 with their parents; only about one-third were expected to be reunited by then and the reunions that did happen were chaotic and in Phoenix, the reunions were marked by confusion and heartbreak.

Darly, who had been potty-trained before the separation, had regressed to diapers. Ederson bounced up and down on his mother’s lap and downed Doritos with gusto. All of the adults were fitted with ankle monitors.

“I want to go with my little sister,” he said, pointing to a 13-month-old named Carmen in the arms of Denis Espinoza, her Honduran father who was released from detention to recover her 20 days after they were separated. “See,” said his mother, “he thinks those are his siblings.”