I’ve been working with separated families at KIND since summer 2018. For almost three years, I spent hours talking to hundreds of separated parents who had been deported back to their countries without their children. Before Covid, I spent weeks in Guatemala and Honduras, traveling to meet with parents searching for reunification. The families were all different, but what I heard from them was always the same: they desperately missed their kids and were ready to do anything to see them again—many of them even attempted the dangerous journey back to the United States, and some more than once, to try to get back to their kids. The one thing these parents wouldn’t do was risk their kids returning to their countries. They were willing to bear the pain of separation to ensure that their kids could be safe in the U.S., even if it meant that they watched them grow up over video calls. Some parents talked about how hard it was to smile at the images of their kids’ new rooms and new friends when they’d lost hope of ever being there to share it in person. One mom who was separated from her son when he was just 18 months old was scared that he’d forget her. When we met in 2019, she’d missed 2 of his 3 birthdays. He couldn’t remember when they’d ever lived together.
When the Biden Administration began the Family Reunification Task Force in February 2021, KIND was there to help some of the first separated families begin the process of reunification with their children in the United States. Getting to call a parent and tell them that there was finally a way for them to come back to the U.S. was euphoric, and many parents couldn’t believe that it was real. At KIND, my colleagues and I have worked with over 1,500 people affected by family separation both internationally and in the U.S., so we were able to advocate for families based on their needs, and ensure that the humanitarian parole process would provide a safe, fast and dignified path to reunification. While there’s still a long way to go, and hundreds of families still in need of assistance, we are committed to representing as many families as we can, to help them get started on their journey to healing with their children.
The mom I met in 2019 reunified with her son in July 2021. The parole process was brand new when we started work on her application last spring, and she was so nervous by the time we filed it that she’d call me convinced that something would change or she’d need to provide more information or that none of it would work out. When her application was approved, though, she was calm, like she’d known it all along. She was ready. She got on her flight to the U.S. almost a year ago now. She and her son have an apartment, and she’s working at a restaurant. Now she can sit with him in his room, and watch him playing with his friends. She was there for his 5th birthday.