时时彩龙虎走势图官网:Detained, separated and deported: The end of a mother’s American dream

After living in the U.S. for nearly a decade, Mary was arrested and separated from her children before the family was deported to Guatemala

by Christopher Tidey
UNICEF/UN0217814/Bindra

27 June 2018

CHIMALTENANGO, Guatemala, 27 June 2018 – Mary’s?American dream fell apart on 16 August last year. That was the day immigration enforcement and police officers knocked on the front door of the home she shared with her 12-year-old daughter Sami and 10-year-old son Jason* in Brownsville, Texas.

“That day was horrible, truly awful,” recalls Mary. “It hurts when I remember.”

Early that morning, officers in the area were going house-to-house in search of an undocumented immigrant. When Mary opened the door, they asked for her identification and for the children’s social security numbers which she could not provide. They asked whether she was in the country illegally. Mary stayed silent.

She remembers vividly what happened next.

“The official said to one of his guys, ‘Turn her around and take her.’ They handcuffed me. They put me in one of the cars … They were screaming at me while they were taking me. The saddest part was when they took my two kids. My little boy was sleeping and he didn’t know what was going on and he was looking for me. They put my kids in the other car.”?

The official said to one of his guys, ‘Turn her around and take her.’ They handcuffed me. They put me in one of the cars … They were screaming at me while they were taking me.

Mary, Sami and Jason were taken to a local police station at which point their situation worsened. The family was forcibly separated, with Mary shuttled off to a migration detention centre and the children brought to a shelter for unaccompanied minors. Mary didn’t know where Sami and Jason had been taken and the children didn’t know where their mother was. It was a heart-wrenching experience for all three.

At the time of Mary’s arrest and the family’s separation, she had been living in the U.S. for nearly 10 years, the children for almost 8.
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Link to video on it's hosted site.
UNICEF video
Mary was separated from her two children, aged only 10 and 12, by US immigration at their home in Brownsville, Texas. The children had been living there for nearly eight years.
In search of opportunity

For Mary, the decision to leave Guatemala for the U.S. in 2008 was a painful, but necessary one.

Life as a young single mother of two young children in Guatemala was extremely difficult. Mary struggled to make ends meet and could not depend on the children’s father for support.

“I suffered a lot of domestic violence (during that time) … and I had nothing to give my children,” says Mary. She says the ‘turning point’ came when she and the children were evicted from their one-room apartment because she couldn’t come up with money for rent. “The owner of the place kicked me off to the street, so I didn’t have anything else to give (my children). I was on the street with a child around four-months-old and one and a half-year-old little girl.”

Though it pained her deeply, Mary felt she had little choice but to leave the children with her mother, who lived nearby, and set off for the U.S. Mary’s sister had told her previously she could get a decent paying job there so she could send money back for the kids.

Mary’s grueling journey to the U.S. took days, and she traveled with only the clothes on her back and what little money she could scrape together for buses, water and bribes. It was exhausting, dehumanizing and dangerous – she was at one point threatened with rape.? After eventually crossing the Rio Grande under cover of darkness, she moved on to the town of Brownsville, where she soon found work in a restaurant kitchen.

One of Mary’s sisters made the same journey about two years later, bringing Mary’s young children. It was difficult at first because the children didn’t know who she was, but over time the family found comfort and happiness together. The U.S. became home and after living there for nearly eight years, it was all that Sami and Jason really knew – Guatemala was more of an idea or distant memory than a reality for them. Mary became kitchen manager, they had a spacious home and the children enjoyed school and had friends.

Sadly, the family’s hard-won new life was not to last.
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Link to video on it's hosted site.
UNICEF USA
Who do you hear?

“My son was crying (on the phone) … he asked me ‘Are you in such a beautiful place that you don’t want to come here with me’.”

A bittersweet reunion

After their initial separation by immigration authorities, Mary and the children would have no news of each other for two long months. “I had no idea where they were,” Mary says with tears in her eyes. The children began to think Mary had abandoned them.

Finally, in October of last year, Mary was told that Jason and Sami were being cared for in an institution for children supported by a Catholic charity. She was permitted to speak with them over the phone once a week. The first conversation was heartbreaking for Mary. “My son was crying (on the phone) … he asked me ‘Are you in such a beautiful place that you don’t want to come here with me’.”

Mary was eventually informed that she and the children would be deported, but it wasn’t until seven months after they had been separated that Mary was reunited with the children – on the plane that would carry them back to Guatemala.

Their reunion was bittersweet. “They looked unwell and were very upset,” Mary recalls. “My girl started crying and said ‘You’re finally here and I’ll go with you wherever you go.’ Jason was very depressed and suffering from a skin rash. He told me never to leave him again.”

On the plane back to Guatemala, Mary’s mind was racing. “I was worried about having nothing, where we would live, the children starting over again. I had plans for our lives and now those lives are gone.”
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A boy rides a bicycle out a door, Guatemala
UNICEF/UN0217785/Bindra
Jason rides his bike out of his mother’s home in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. The family is still adjusting to their new life after living in the United States for almost eight years.
Starting over in Guatemala

Mary, Sami and Jason are three of the more than 31,900 people from Guatemala who have been returned from the U.S. and Mexico between January and April of this year.?Back in Guatemala for a few months now, the transition has not been easy for the family.

Through friends, they found a small cinderblock house for rent in Chimaltenango. The accommodations are sparse. “Everything in this house is loaned or donated,” Mary says waving at the furniture around the kitchen.

The first two months’ rent were free, but Mary remains without a job and doesn’t know how she will find the US$250 a month she needs to keep the family living there.

The neighbourhood is also dangerous because of gang activity, so Mary is worried for her children’s safety. “Here in this district, there's so much violence,” says Mary. “Somebody dies every three or four days. The gangs take money from people. I don’t want them to know we have come from the U.S. because they will think we have money.”?

"I had plans for our lives and now those lives are gone."

Mary and the children are receiving some psychosocial services through a local NGO supported by UNICEF. The children are now in school and she is looking for work.

Yet what Mary really wants is to go back to the U.S. She is worried though that if they try again?to cross into the U.S. illegally, they’ll be caught and the children will be taken from her.

Nevertheless, Mary is hopeful. “This is God’s will,” she explains. “He knows what is in my heart. He got me there the first time and he will get me there again.”
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*names have been changed to protect identities


Related links

UNICEF Is Mobilizing to Protect Migrant Children in the U.S.

Comment from the American Academy of Pediatrics and UNICEF USA on Federal Court Ruling on Family Separation Case

UNICEF USA Statement on Executive Order and the Ongoing Protection of Children at our Southern Border

Statement from UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore on situation of migrant children and families in the U.S.

Five Things You Should Know About Migrant Families Entering the U.S.