The the court ordered deadline for the Trump administration to reunite the parents of more than 2,500 children, who were taken from their parents at the border arrived, was Thursday. One mother and daughter, separated in June, were reunited this week and spent deadline day receiving help at Catholic Charities in San Antonio.
When Sandra Elizabeth Sanchéz and her 15-year-old daughter Christhel Nohelia Barahona Sanchéz came here from Honduras, they were hoping to go to Washington state to be with another of Sandra’s daughters. That is not what happened. Sandra said when they arrived at the border, the mother and daughter were separated and detained.
“They took away my daughter. I worried so much. I feel so much guilt. I suffered so much,” said Sandra, whose interview was translated. “I begged to God on my knees that the day would come when I would be with my child. It’s so hard.”
It was hard for Christhel, too. She didn’t know where her mother was.
“Sometimes I talked with the woman who was handling my case and I’d asked her if I could talk with my mother. They never let me talk with her,” Christhel said.
Sandra and Christhel were together Thursday at Catholic Charities in San Antonio. Sandra, who is 44, looks some years older. She looks exhausted and sad. Christel looks like a 15-year-old you might seen at the mall, but she is alert in a way most teens aren’t. Her right foot taps quietly while her mother speaks, and her brown eyes pool with tears as she hears her story.
When Sandra was detained, desperation quickly set in. Not only did she not know where her daughter was, but where she was kept changing.
“They didn’t have us in one place,” Sandra said. “We had friends in one location, then they transferred to another place; my friends were crying; we were crying. Then we’d make other friends and they would separate us again, always.
“When I left the last place, I left my friends and they cried. They asked me, ‘Pray to God, Doña Sandra, so that we can get out of here.’ Yes, I said. We must always pray to God because God is always with us.”
Christhel turned 15 in detention, on June 15, without her mother. Someone managed to get her a cake. She says that made her happy, though she would have preferred her family there.
Then, on Wednesday, Sandra was taken from the center where she was being detained. She thought it was another move. She was asked to do some paperwork, then given a handkerchief.
“I thought it was to clean myself. The official told me, ‘No, you’re going to need that.’ I didn’t know my daughter was there. They took us to an office and I saw my daughter sitting there. I hugged her and cried,” Sandra said.
Mother and daughter were happy and relieved to have been reunited, and the first words Sandra said when she got her daughter back in her arms seem to linger in the air over this reunion.
“Chris, forgive me because I didn’t know what we were getting into,” Sandra told her daughter. “I made her suffer in bringing her with me. ‘Forgive me,’ I told her. It was not my intention.”
According to government numbers released after the deadline, more than 700 children remain separated from parents.
Bonnie Petrie can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @kbonniepetrie