As a mother, the horror of fleeing my home country’s violence—maybe with only the clothes on my back—holding my children in my arms, or gripping their hands as we walked or ran to safety, and then having them ripped from my embrace and hearing “You’ll never see your child again”… it’s the stuff of nightmares. I truly cannot fathom it. But this heartache and trauma is the reality for so many migrants who were separated at the border under the former president’s “zero tolerance” policy.
It seems many have forgotten that this country has been a nation of immigrants since the first white explorers (who were immigrants) stepped foot on this land hundreds of years ago. And yet, in 2016, Trump built his campaign on the promise of a giant wall to keep immigrants —specifically, immigrants with brown skin—out. (And, he built his campaign on the backbone of racism and bigotry to help fuel the desire for said wall.) He referred to migrants at the southern border as “rapists” and “murderers” and “drug dealers” even though time and time again, we hear stories of mothers in anguish who were fleeing violence and trying to save their families. Even though there is no evidence that immigrants (specifically with darker or brown skin, as those are the immigrants Trump hates) are any more violent than American citizens with lighter skin. In fact, interestingly, most mass shootings in our country that inflict horrific numbers of casualties are committed by … wait for it … white men.
But it worked for Trump as his thing was to fan the flame of racism whenever he could in his endless quest to return America to the 1950s when white men controlled everything and could do whatever TF they wanted, women stayed home and cooked pot roast and churned out babies, and anyone with darker skin “knew their place” and had their civil rights infringed upon without consequence.
One way he kept his promise to “make America white again,” especially as it became more and more apparent that his border wall project was an abysmal failure, was to enforce inhumane treatment of migrants at the southern border. Specifically, separating families as a deterrent for future migrants to even attempt crossing over. We saw video after video and read article after article of young children, babies even, crying for their mothers. We saw parents being led away in handcuffs, looking back one last time, not knowing if and when they’d see their kids again.
Thankfully, Lord Voldemort was not re-elected and instead, a sane person with some semblance of a moral compass is now in the White House. But what a mess President Biden has been handed, as he now must clean up the many disasters Trumpelstiltskin left us with, including re-uniting hundreds, if not thousands, of broken families.
But Biden knew what he was walking into on inauguration day back in January, and he hit the ground running, spearheading plans to fix this humanitarian crisis. Heart-warming stories like that of Sandra Ortíz and her son Bryan are now giving us hope that the Biden administration can actually repair some of the fractures caused by so much hate throughout the previous four years.
Sandra Ortíz and her son Bryan Chávez “had fled their village in Mexico’s Michoacán state, where it seemed as though everything that could go wrong did,” The Washington Post reports. “Her husband disappeared in 2010; his body was found two days later with bullet wounds. Then the local cartel delivered the body of their teenage neighbor, Chávez’s friend, dismembered in a bag. And then they began trying to recruit Chávez.”
Imagine that terror—what mother wouldn’t run? What mother wouldn’t do whatever she could to save her son’s life and her own?
The Washington Post goes on to explain that Ortíz and Chávez “turned themselves in at the San Ysidro port of entry and requested asylum.” (Remember—for all the “They should come here legally!” folks… requesting asylum is LEGAL.) But two days later, the desperate mother and her son were taken to an office where, she says, “They told me to say goodbye to my son, that I wouldn’t see him again. And then they took him away.”
The article goes on to describe the next part of Sandra’s heartbreaking ordeal, including her month-long detainment in a detention facility with other mothers, during which she was not able to communicate with her son (who was 15 at the time), and during which the mothers were all told their kids would be put up for adoption.
Imagine being trapped in a cage, unable to talk or see your child, and hearing you’ll never see them again. As a mom, it physically pains me to even imagine.
Eventually, Sandra was deported and only saw her son’s face over video chat for the next few years. That was until the Biden administration began its reunification efforts and finally brought her back to the U.S., where she could hug her son—now a 19-year-old—in real life.
Also, ABC News also shares another mother’s story of seeing her kids again, after many years of separation. In the emotional video, a woman named Mabel, from Honduras, tightly hugs her sons as she surprises them at a family gathering. She, too, had been separated from her kids at the border and then spent two years in a detention center before being sent back to Honduras, the country she fled because of extreme violence.
The reunion is emotional, full of tears, hugs, and “I love yous,” and it’s been a long time coming. But these are only two stories—there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of families just like Sandra’s and Mabel’s who are still waiting.
“As these reunions start to trickle in slowly, the daunting challenge of reuniting the rest of the families that were torn away at the border looms over the advocates who search for them,” ABC News reports. “So far the Biden administration has identified more than 1,000 families that remain separated.”
CNN, however, reports that the number is far higher. “Trump administration’s controversial ‘zero tolerance’ policy resulted in the separations of at least 2,800 children from their parents, according to government data.” The reason we don’t know the exact number? This is due to the same reason it’s so hard to reunite families. Not surprisingly, the Trump administration kept very few (if any) records of those deported or separated, making reunification for some families seem impossible. And making the total number of separated families still unknown.
But Biden’s task force isn’t quitting, so families desperate to find their kids can take comfort in that.
“The first families reuniting this week are mothers, they are sons, they are daughters, they are children who were 3 years old at the time of separation. They are teenagers who have had to live without their parent during their most formative years,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says.
And, Biden’s task force isn’t just working to create these emotional reunions. They’re also helping families with their paperwork to obtain permanent residency in the U.S. They are also working to provide compensation and social services to help them heal from this traumatic ordeal, CNN reports. “It is the least these families deserve given that our government deliberately abused them,” adds Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Sandra and Mabel are the first of many mothers who have been able to hug their children again and escape the treacherous conditions of their home countries. After all, we are a nation of immigrants, and ripping children from their mothers is not something America stands for. Fortunately, we now have a president who truly represents American values and ideals and is committed to bringing those children back into their mothers’ arms where they belong.