Seven weeks ago, as Angelica crossed the Paso del Norte Bridge to a legal point of entry in Texas, she knew U.S. immigration officials might separate her from her 3-year-old granddaughter, Sofi.
She carried guardianship documents, Sofi’s birth certificate, and her asylum request, so agents could read clearly that she feared for her life. She worried about how they’d respond, but mostly, she worried for Sofi, who she said had “lived through many very ugly things” because the family was targeted by drug cartels in Mexico.
What she couldn’t have known was how difficult it would be to get Sofi back.
On Thursday, seven weeks after they were separated, Angelica and Sofi were reunited in San Francisco.
It was the first time they’d seen each other in 47 days.
The PBS NewsHour’s Amna Nawaz has been following the family throughout their journey. They met while Angelica and Sofi were waiting to cross the border in Juarez, Mexico. They are among thousands of families who have dealt with the legal and emotional fallout of the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from their families at the border, which began in May as part of its zero tolerance policy. Trump signed an executive order to end the practice under pressure from lawmakers and advocates June 20, the same day Angelica and Sofi crossed the border.
After Sofi was separated from her grandmother, the family said they went days without knowing where exactly she was. Eventually, a social worker confirmed to them that she was in Pennsylvania. Sofi’s mother was allowed brief, weekly calls with the 3-year-old in which she cried and begged for them to come get her.
The family submitted fingerprints, IDs and other documentation. Contact with social workers was spotty. Mostly, they waited. As weeks passed, something in Sofi changed, her mother said. On the phone, she stopped crying. She seemed to want to hang up quickly. Her mother worried Sofi has given up on seeing her family again, or grown accustomed to life in the shelter.
It “doesn’t feel good to hear that,” Sofi’s mother told the NewsHour earlier this month.
When they were reunited on Thursday, Sofi stood still as her mother crouched down in front of her in front of the arrivals door. A moment later, she looked at her mother, said “Mama,” and started to cry.