It once seemed practically impossible that hundreds of families separated during the prior administration could be reunited once again. In the midst of cruel, anti-immigrant rhetoric, a “Zero Tolerance” policy at the border and, above all, a White House overrun by xenophobia for four long years, the hope that immigrant fathers and mothers would see their kids once again was almost at zero.
Bryan Chávez’ reunification with his mother, Sandra Ortiz, this very week in San Ysidro, California, after more than three years apart —since 2017— when he was just 15 years old, opens the possibility that the more than 1,000 migrant children who still have not been able to see their parents will be able to embrace them once again, soon. That comes as a result of the work of the special task force created this past February by the current government for this very purpose, and especially thanks to the clamor of a majority of U.S. Americans and the pressure of pro-immigrant organizations who fought side by side for a long time to achieve this.
Indeed, more than 5,500 families were separated during the Donald Trump presidency as part of its deterrence strategy so that, for fear of an imminent separation, migrants would stop trying to arrive at the southern border with the goal of entering U.S. territory.
Obviously this was one of the most infamous and cruel immigration policies that comes to mind in the recent history of the United States, initiated not to enhance border security, but to inflict severe physical and above all, psychological damage on migrants, especially children.
We are yet to know the full extent of the consequences familial separation will have in the short, medium, and long term for migrant children, who were suddenly unable to continue alongside their parents at the time they most needed them in their lives.
That is, while it is really positive that they have already found a way to make family reunification a reality, little by little, it cannot be forgotten that this familial separation, for common sense, humanity, and ethical principles, never should have occurred. Not in this United States that considers itself multicultural and multi-ethnic, a defender of human rights and other historic battles since the civil rights era of the previous century.
To be humanitarian, of course, is nothing that could be asked nor expected of Donald Trump, much less his main advisor on the matter, the xenophobe Stephen Miller. It’s not in their nature.
For now, Bryan and his mother are together, after the odyssey that forced them to leave their birthplace of Michoacán, Mexico to avoid being recruited by local gangs, or meet the same fate as his father who, according to The Washington Post and the group Al Otro Lado, was disappeared in 2010. His body was found days later with gunshot wounds. Other people close to his family met the same end. Therefore, they had to flee to save their lives.
Without knowing it, however, their destiny in the U.S. would be marked by another type of cruelty —the family separation from which they will still have to recover as the years pass. Bryan knows better than anyone: now with impeccable English and working for a refugee assistance organization, Immigrant Defenders, he is himself on a path he never imagined. And now he knows first-hand how to advocate for refugees.
Cases like that of Bryan and his mother will begin to multiply at some point in time. There is no doubt about that. But their story will not be complete if a very important and also overwhelming fact is overlooked: given that the human rights of these migrant families were violated by the very same White House —which Donald Trump presided over and Stephen Miller controlled in the area of immigration policy— accountability is something that must be high on the list, even when such people are no longer in power.
The crime against humanity that remains latent in each and every one of the family separation cases is a cruelty that will surely echo in the historic retelling of this moment that seemed eternal.
To read the Spanish version of this article click here.