Arizona — Gredis Alvarado has not seen her two girls for nine months. The woman is at her home in Guatemala and they are somewhere in Texas. They came together to the United States border but ended up locked in different centers. Alvarado is one of hundreds of mothers who were separated by federal authorities under the zero-tolerance policy of the Trump administration. She ended with a return ticket and the little ones, 2 and 5 years-old, in a limbo, at the mercy of immigration agents. When will I see them again? When? She asks. I still do not know what to answer. Yeni González is another Guatemalan woman who was locked up in the Eloy detention center for weeks without her three children. Thanks to a fundraising campaign on the internet, she was able to pay bail to get out and cross the United States in search of her little ones. From Arizona she embarked on an odyssey to New York, where, after 45 days separated, she was able to embrace her own… but so, for very little and from afar. She has to wait for the process to help her recover her children and that may take months. The woman is stranded – ironically – in the city that houses the Statue of Liberty. Until when? She asks. One does not know what to answer either.
Mircy Lopez cried when she saw her 3-year-old boy, after being forced to spend four months away from him. Her cry was a mixture of joy and frustration; she was happy to see him well, strong and healthy, but the disappointment clouded the reunion when the young one did not recognize her after so many weeks of absence. Her heart broke. They left Arizona, but those painful memories went with them. Now they are in Florida looking for a new life, but marked by the trauma of the separation. Will we overcome it? Asks the Guatemalan. One only thinks “I do not know”.
These are the first and last names of the border mothers, almost all of them Guatemalan who, they say, flee from poverty and violence. These are the faces of immigration statistics. This is the reality of hundreds of women and more than 2,000 children who have suffered a family separation that they will drag with for life. Few have returned to see their own and fewer know of them; Majority are still in detention, praying for the good of their children, those they – have assured – were taken without the opportunity to say goodbye.
Mothers who are still on the embers have a marked calendar: July 26. That is the date on which a judge ordered that the children be reunified with their parents, in or out of detention. The first term expired this week, when children under 5 had to return to the arms of their own, but not all did; there are legal setbacks that complicated their cases; obstacles that make them mothers without children, deported or imprisoned, guilty and innocent, desperate or in need, but always tormented. Was it worth it? They ask. The answer is always the same: “I do not know”.