An immigrant father deported back to Honduras in June without his 6-year-old daughter has been reunited with her.
The reunion came three and a half months after the Trump administration separated Misael Ponce Herrera from his young daughter, Marianita, after the two crossed into the United States illegally. Herrera said he spent months sending documents and speaking with lawyers in Honduras and in the United States to get his daughter back. On Friday, U.S. officials flew Marianita back to Honduras where Herrera, his wife, Ana, and the couple’s 3-year-old son, Jadiel, welcomed her home.
An amazing update to my story on the Honduran dad who was deported without his daughter: Marianita, 6, was finally reunited with her dad, Misael, moments ago in Honduras. The little girl quietly smiled as her father wept. Watch this video of their emotional reunion. Story to come pic.twitter.com/NwR7xO0ERA
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) September 21, 2018
Between April and June, more than 2,500 immigrant children were forcibly separated from adults traveling with them as they tried to enter the United States. More than 1,900 children have been reunited with their parents and about 200 have been sent to sponsors, such as family members, living in the U.S.
The Trump administration also deported more than 400 parents without their children and court records show that only 21 of these children have been reunited with their parents in their home countries.
Herrera said he left Honduras with his daughter to flee poverty and violence in the country. Immigration officials took them into custody minutes after they illegally crossed the border between Mexico and south Texas. The two were held together for about a week before officials separated them. Herrera said he was pressured to sign deportation orders.
Officials placed Marianita in a children’s immigration facility in New York where by phone she often begged her parents back in Honduras to come get her.
On Friday, Marianita quietly smiled as she arrived at the airport in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Her father acknowledged that there is a long road of healing ahead, but said he was grateful to finally have his daughter back in his arms.
“I feel happy and nervous,” Herrera, who lives in rural Honduras, said. “Everything is left to God. God’s time is perfect.”
Still, hundreds of other deported parents have not been reunited with their children and it is unclear how quickly other reunifications abroad may happen. Many parents were flown back to capital cities in Central America. From there, they then returned to rural villages, where they are often hard to reach, according to immigration advocates.
In Herrera’s case, lawyers for the Texas Civil Rights Project helped him take the necessary steps to get his daughter back. Efren Olivares, the group’s racial and economic justice director, said he believes lawyers pushing for Marianita’s release as well as the public learning about the family’s situation through the PBS NewsHour on Tuesday sped up their reunion.
“This is the beginning of the road for them,” Olivares said. “This is not the end. Now they have to struggle with recovering from everything that they suffered.”
Olivares added that he is frustrated for others who remain separated.
“It’s great for this family, but it is painstakingly slow for the others,” he said. “The federal government is very bureaucratic and they are not in a rush to reunite any of these families. They are only doing the bare minimum which the court is forcing them to do. They are dragging their feet on purpose because it does not benefit them politically to reunite these families. So they don’t seem to care.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration to have all separated families reunited, said nothing legally changed this week that would have led to Marianita being released quickly.
“The government has always had the ability to reunite children with deported parents where the family wanted that outcome,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and the lead lawyer on the case.