Teenagers reunited with mother after years of separation under ‘zero tolerance’ policy

Immigration

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — More than 5,000 children were separated from their parents at the Mexico border during the Trump administration, under the family separation policy.

The Department of Justice formally reversed the former president’s zero tolerance policy during Biden’s first week in office. It had been halted by the Trump administration in mid 2018 but not formally rescinded until 2021.

Since then, the Biden administration has worked to reunite families under the guidance of a task force created by the president in February 2021.

This week, four families were officially reunited. One of those families includes two teenagers who had an emotional reunion with their mom after years apart.

Two teenage boys hadn’t seen their mother since 2017 when they escaped Honduras to escape violence and direct death threats. Mabel was detained without her 13- and 15-year old sons and later deported back to Honduras in 2019.

An immigration advocate said that the mother had been praying for reunification “night and day.”

“She was just praying everything would work out,” said Executive Director of Las Americas Linda Rivas

Rivas added they were separated as a part of a test run for the later implemented Family separation policy.

“She immediately fled again. She came back into Mexico. She was in Juarez and ready to reunite with her children,” said Rivas.

Her children were kept in a Customs and Border Patrol center before they went to live with extended family in the U.S.

The teenagers had a surprise reunification with their mother during what they thought was a video recording session to ask the Biden administration to let their mother back into the country.

“They’re not babies anymore, they’re not children anymore. They’re young men, and they missed out on so much time with their mother. And she missed out on so many moment of their lives,” said Rivas.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said this week’s reunions were only the beginning.

“We have hundreds of families left and we will reunite them all,” said Mayorkas.

Mabel has a temporary stay in the country as she and her children await a more permeant status. Attorneys with the ACLU report there are 1,000 children still separated from their parents and the Biden administration’s task force is still searching for 400 parents.

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