A mother has been reunited with her estranged nine-year-old daughter after seeing her by chance in a news story on TV about lone children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
The emotional reunion at Texas‘ Austin-Bergstrom International Airport was captured in photographs that demonstrate the emotional toll of the border crisis.
Glenda Valdez, who emigrated to the U.S.
from Honduras in search of a better life, had not seen her daughter Emely for six years.
But in May when she was at home watching television, Ms Valdez recognised a picture of her daughter – crying in a red hoodie and found by border agents.
She contacted the authorities, and after weeks of anxious waiting, the pair were finally reunited – the scene being captured in a series of emotional pictures.
Emely is one of the rising numbers of children travelling alone to enter the United States from Mexico, with March seeing almost 19,000 (a record) and nearly 17,200 in April (the second highest number).
Almost one of every three unaccompanied children appearing at the border is from Honduras, second only to Guatemala.
After six years, Emely (left) is reunited with her mother, Glenda and sister, Zuri, at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, login maxbet online Sunday, June 6, 2021, in Austin, Texas
Emely’s father, Ms Valdez said, was absent and did not provide for them and so when Valdez left Honduras, her daughter was placed in the custody of Valdez’s mother.
But Emely’s father took her back, and Valdez said she then only had sporadic contact with her daughter, with the father preferring for them not to speak regularly.
Every so often, Valdez said she would get a video call, and after some time, Emely told her that she had a new stepmother who was not kind to her.
After seeing that she was unhappy, Emely’s father decided to send her away without telling her where, Ms Valdez said. He placed her in the care of another adult who over several weeks helped her travel to Mexico’s northern border.
On May 13, border patrol agents found a sobbing Emely in La Joya, Texas after she had been walking in the bush for six hours with a group of strangers.
‘I was thirsty and we didn’t have anything to drink and I didn’t like it and I didn’t know where I was going,’ Emely said in Spanish on Sunday.
Emely, 8, of Honduras, stands alone after turning herself in upon crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in La Joya, Texas, May 13.
Her mother, Glenda Valdez was at her home in Austin, watching a Univision newscast one afternoon in May, when she saw this picture of Emely in a red hoodie. She knew at once that it was her daughter
Emely center, walks with a group of migrants after turning themselves in after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in La Joya, Texas.
Growing numbers of migrant families are making the heart-wrenching decision to separate from their children and send them into the U.S. alone
When the agents found her, she said she had lost her mother’s number, and did not know where her mother lived.
Desperate, she gave reporters details she thought might identify her mom.
‘Her hair is curly, but sometimes she straightens it. And she has a lip ring,’ she told them.
She told the agents that her mother had been expecting her, but Valdez said Sunday she had no idea her child had been sent to cross the border.
Valdez was at her home in Austin, watching a Univision newscast one afternoon in May, when she saw the picture of Emely in a red hoodie.
She knew at once that it was her daughter.
Desperate, she immediately began making calls to U.S. authorities, the network and refugee agencies.
‘I was like in shock, honestly, because imagine you are watching the TV and you suddenly see your daughter,’ Valdez said.
‘And then even more to see her crying and everything she was saying broke my heart, honestly, everything she said there, that she was upset and crying and all that, and to see her image, barefoot and all was very difficult for me.’
After a long wait, Ms Valdez received a call on Wednesday to say that Emely was in a government shelter, and that the pair would be reunited soon. Pictured: Glenda Valdez stands with her daughters, Jassary, left, and Zuri, as she waits at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to be reunited with her oldest daughter Emely, Sunday, June 6
Glenda Valdez, who emigrated to the U.S.
from Honduras in search of a better life, had not seen her daughter Emely for six years before the were reunited on Saturday (pictured)
Pictured: Emely, right, is reunited with her mother, Glenda Valdez and sister, Zuri, left, at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, Sunday, June 6
Emely said she was taken to a group home.
But Valdez didn´t know that, and for weeks she said she got only vague answers to her pleas for information. Be patient, she was told.
‘I was just traumatized. I spent many days crying, watching her video, looking through her photos and crying and crying and crying,’ Valdez said.
After a long wait, Ms Valdez received a call on Wednesday to say that Emely was in a government shelter, and that the pair would be reunited soon.
Finally, on Saturday, Ms Valdez and Emely were reunited, with pictures showing them hugging in the airport before walking off together.
Guided by federal law and a decades-old court settlement, the U.S.
Health and Human Services Department seeks to place unaccompanied children in the ‘least restrictive setting’ possible, which, in the vast majority of cases is a parent or close relative already living in the United States.
It took an average of 35 days to place children in a home at the end of May.
Emely was reunited with her mother 10 days quicker than that.
Children are typically released with instructions to appear in immigration court, where a judge rules on their asylum claims. Decisions can take years – the court system has a backlog of 1.3 million cases.
While Emely awaits her court date, she has moved in with Valdez, her husband and their two daughters.
Finally, on Saturday, Ms Valdez and Emely were reunited, with pictures showing them hugging in the airport before walking off together.
Pictured: Emely, right, is reunited with her mother, Glenda Valdez at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, Sunday, June 6, 2021
Emely, second from left, leaves Austin-Bergstrom International Airport after she was reunited with her mother, Glenda Valdez and sisters, Jassary, left, and Zuri, right, Sunday, June 6, 2021
The Biden administration said Tuesday that it has identified more than 3,900 children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border under former President Donald Trump’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy on illegal crossings.
The figures provided one of the more detailed accounts of a chapter in U.S.
immigration history that drew widespread condemnation.
The Biden administration’s Family Reunification Task Force count of 3,913 children separated from July 1, 2017, to the end of Trump’s presidency is well below the more than 5,500 children identified by the American Civil Liberties Union in court filings, based on government information.
The task force said it identified ‘nearly all’ children who were separated under the zero-tolerance policy but will review another 1,723 cases since July 2017, which would bring total cases examined to 5,636, close to the ACLU tally.
The discrepancy appears to stem largely from a federal court ruling in San Diego that excluded 1,723 children who were separated for reasons other than Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, such as risk of child endangerment or questions about parentage.
Emely kicks a soccer ball to her mother, Glenda Valdez, at their home after they were reunited, Sunday, June 6, 2021, in Austin, Texas
Emely is embraced by her mother, Glenda Valdez in their home after they were reunited, Sunday, June 6, 2021, in Austin, Texas
The task force will also try to determine if children were separated during the first six months of Trump’s presidency, starting in January 2017, which was outside the scope of the ACLU lawsuit.
That could raise the final number.
Of the 3,913 children, 1,786 have been reunified with a parent, mostly during Trump’s tenure, parents of another 1,965 have been contacted and the whereabouts of 391 have not been established.
Many who have been contacted were released to other family members.
The report provided data that hadn’t been previously released. Nearly 60% of children separated under the zero-tolerance policy were Guatemalans (2,270), followed by Hondurans (1,150), Salvadorans (281), Mexicans (75), Brazilians (74) and Romanians (23).
The Border Patrol’s Yuma, Arizona, sector recorded the highest number of separations of the agency’s nine sectors on the Mexican border with 1,114.
The Rio Grande Valley in Texas, which dominated media attention as the busiest corridor for illegal crossings by far, was second with 1,025 separations.
The El Paso, Texas, sector, which was site of a trial run of the policy in 2017 that was not publicly disclosed at the time, was third with 982 separated children.
The Biden administration has vowed to reunite parents who are still apart from their children, but the pace has been slow and it is unclear how high that number will go.
The first four parents were returned to the United States last month, part of what the task force identified as an initial group of 62 people.
Emely’s reunion with her mother comes as Vice President Kamala Harris met Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Tuesday as part of her first trip abroad since taking office as she tries to lower migration from Central America which has spiked in recent months.
Harris and Lopez Obrador witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding on development agencies working in Central America.
The accord is aimed at reducing the number of migrants from Central America’s Northern Triangle countries – Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – to the United States through Mexico.
Since President Joe Biden took office in January, the number of migrants taken into custody per month at the U.S.-Mexico border has risen to the highest levels in 20 years.
Many are from Central America.
Pictured: Vice President Kamala Harris walks with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Tuesday, June 8, 2021, at the National Palace in Mexico City
While Lopez Obrador committed in a previous virtual meeting with Harris that the U.S.
can ‘count on us’ to help address the issue of irregular migration, the Mexican president has in the past blamed Biden for the increase in migration at the border.
And he was chummy with his predecessor, President Donald Trump, despite Trump’s hardline polcies towards migrants.
Early last month, he also accused the U.S.
of violating Mexico’s sovereignty for giving money to non-governmental organizations that were critical of his government.
But Harris, in her role dealing with the root causes of increased migration from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, as well as Mexico, has sought to strengthen diplomatic relations with the Mexican president.
The meeting follows Harris’ Monday visit to Guatemala, where she met with President Alejandro Giammattei.
To coincide with their meeting the Biden administration announced a number of new commitments to combat trafficking, smuggling, and corruption, as well as investments in economic development in the country.
Speaking there on Monday, Harris finally revealed that she does not plan to visit the southern border because it would just be a ‘grand gesture’ as opposed to a genuine trip – as she warned illegal migrants they are not welcome in the U.S.
Kamala says she WON’T visit the border because it would just be a ‘grand gesture’ at Guatemala press conference
Harris told reporters on Monday in Guatemala that she was focused on addressing the root causes of migration in a way that delivers ‘tangible’ results ‘as opposed to grand gestures.’
‘On the issues of Republicans’ political attacks or criticism or even concerns, the reason I am here in Guatemala as my first trip as vice president of the United States is because this is one of our highest priorities,’ Harris said during a question and answer portion of her press conference with the Guatemalan President.
‘I came here to be here on the ground, to speak with the leader of this nation around what we can do in a way that is significant, is tangible and has real results,’ she continued. ‘And I will continue to be focused on that kind of work as opposed to grand gestures.’
Vice President Kamala Harris and Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, pose for an official photograph, Monday, June 7, 2021, at the National Palace in Guatemala City. Harris told reporters on Monday in Guatemala that she was focused on addressing the root causes of migration in a way that delivers ‘tangible’ results ‘as opposed to grand gestures’
Harris said she ‘believes’ any migrants who attempt to enter the U.S.
through non-legal channels will be turned away if they arrive at the border.
‘I want to emphasize that the goal of our work is to help Guatemalans find hope at home,’ Harris said after her bilateral meeting with Giammattei.
‘At the same time, I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: Do not come,’ she said, and repeated for emphasis: ‘Do not come.’
‘The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border,’ the vice president insisted.
‘There are legal methods by which migration can and should occur, but we, as one of our priorities, will discourage illegal migrations. And I believe if you come to our border, you will be turned back.’
Harris was criticised from both sides of the aisle for her comments, with Republicans rebuking her for saying a visit to the border would be a ‘grand gesture’, while Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez describing Harris‘ remarks as ‘disappointing’.
Congressman Andy Biggs, Republican of Texas, didn’t buy Harris’s reasoning for not visiting the southern border.
Harris’ first international trip was met with protesters demanding she ‘mind your own business’
‘It is not a grand gesture for Vice President Harris to inspect the damage and inhumanity fueled by the Biden Administration at the southern border,’ Biggs said in a statement to DailyMail.com.
‘However, Kamala would rather turn a blind eye to the mounting chaos than reinforce Trump’s policies that would bring security and stability back to our border.’
Other Republicans also have been open about their criticism of Harris refusing to visit the border even after being named ‘border czar’ by President Joe Biden in March.
They claim her avoiding the region is proof she is not committed to solving the problem.
Ocasio-Cortez accused the United States of having ‘set the house on fire’ when it comes to Latin America – but being unwilling to allow people to escape.
She then argued that the U.S.
needed to emphasize the root causes of migration, rather than punishing those who seek to enter the country.
She reacted to a clip of Harris’ press conference by stating: ‘This is disappointing to see. ‘First, seeking asylum at any US border is a 100% legal method of arrival.
‘Second, the US spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilization in Latin America.
We can’t help set someone’s house on fire and then blame them for fleeing.’
The New York congresswoman added: ‘It would be helpful if the US would finally acknowledge its contributions to destabilization and regime change in the region.
‘Doing so can help us change US foreign policy, trade policy, climate policy, & carceral border policy to address causes of mass displacement & migration.’
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, pictured on June 5, criticized Vice President Kamala Harris’ remarks in Guatemala.
On Monday Harris told would-be migrants from the country that her message was: ‘Do not come’
Regardless of the eventual outcome of Harris’ meetings on Tuesday, Mexico will remain a key partner in enforcement efforts at the border.
llegal border crossings have increased steadily since April 2020, after Trump introduced pandemic-related powers to deny migrants the opportunity to seek asylum, but further accelerated under Biden, who quickly scrapped many of Trump’s hardline border policies – most notably the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program to make asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for court dates in U.S.
Shortly after taking office, Biden also exempted unaccompanied children from Title 42, named for a section of an obscure 1944 public health law that allows authorities to deny entry to prevent the spread of disease.
Mexico agreed to take back its own citizens under Title 42 authorities, as well as people from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
border authorities encountered nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children in March, the highest on record.
Overall, it had more than 170,000 encounters on the border in April, the highest level in more than 20 years though the numbers aren´t directly comparable because getting stopped under pandemic-related authorities carries no legal consequences, resulting in many repeat crossings.
Mexicans accounted for 36 percent of encounters with people who crossed illegally in April, the largest nationality according to the latest monthly data available from U.S.
Customs and Border Protection. Hondurans were second with 22 percent and Guatemalans were third with 17 percent.
In March, Lopez Obrador also blamed Biden for the increase in migration at the U.S. border, saying in a March press conference that the Biden administration had created ‘expectations’ that ‘there would be a better treatment of migrants.’
‘And this has caused Central American migrants, and also from our country, wanting to cross the border thinking that it is easier to do so,’ he said.