Undocumented Mother Begins Quest to Reunite With Children

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2018-07-01


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ELOY, ARIZONA —Guatemalan Yeni Gonzalez crossed the border into the United States illegally and was separated from her children. VOA is following her quest to overcome legal barriers and get her children back from distant detention centers. This is one case among the 2,000 children of undocumented migrants separated from their families.

After 43 days in the custody of the U.S. immigration authorities and having been separated on the southern border of the United States from her three children when trying to enter the country as an undocumented immigrant, Yeni Gonzalez was released on bail.

She spoke with the Voice of America: "I'm going to look for my children," she said. ... "It has been very difficult, very hard for me, I felt that my heart broke into a thousand pieces, they snatch my children from my arms."

For five weeks Yeni Gonzalez was detained in this immigration center in Eloy Arizona, 3,800 kilometers from New York where her three children were taken, after they were separated from her when the family tried to cross the border illegally

Yeni Gonzalez was distraught.

"I asked them to please give me a call, and they said no, there were no calls," she said. "And I told them, please, I want to know from my children, that I already have days of not knowing about them and he said, 'do you know something? You will be deported to Guatemala and your children,' he told me, 'will remain in the hands of this government.'"

In a VOA interview, Yeni says she was unaware of the "Zero Tolerance" policy that separated her from her children. She says if she had known, she would never have brought her children this way.

They are in New York, under the care of the Cayuga center. Donations made it possible for Yeni to be released on bail.

"The bail was paid by some families, mothers who are in New York City. And thank God they sent me by text message, confirmation that was paid, that the bail of $7,500 dollars was paid," said Yeni's lawyer, Jose Orechena.

The departure of Yeni coincided with the visit to a migration processing center in Tucson, Arizona, of the first lady of the United States. Melania Trump says she is closely following the situation of these undocumented families and the work of the authorities.

"I'm here to support you and give my help, whatever I can on behalf of children and the families," she said.

The Trump administration says it will reunify families, according to the head of the Department of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar.

"They would be unified with either parents or other relatives under our policies, so of course if the parent remains in detention, unfortunately under rules that are set by Congress and the courts, they can't be reunified while they're in detention," he said.

A California court ruled last week that the federal government must reunify all parents with children under the age of 5 within 14 days and all parents with children age 5 and older within 30 days.

Yeni Gonzalez is looking forward to hugging her children very soon.


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