In April 2018, a six-year-old Guatemalan girl named Maria was reunited with her parents after seven months in a US government detention facility. Little Maria had been detained by ICE when she and her father were caught crossing into the US in September 2017. Her father was sent back home to Guatemala, but Maria remained in custody. Now, thanks to documentary footage from LivingonOne, we have a rare inside look at the emotional scene of migrant family reunification.
Maria and her father represent one of more than 700 migrant families who were separated during a summer 2017 “test” of what the Trump administration was calling a “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration to the US that became a source of international outrage in May and June of 2018. Though Maria is now back home with her family, it’s unclear how many of the other families separated during the 2017 zero tolerance trial run were given the same opportunity to rejoin their loved ones.
Much remains uncertain about the fates of more than 2,000 migrant children who were separated from their parents this spring as a result ofthe Trump administration’s policy. Despite an executive order by President Trump to halt the practice of family separation, the administration has not announced a plan to reunite those families currently being held apart. This is cause for concern, given the legal and logistical hurdles involved in the reunification process; Texas attorney Jodi Goodwin described the typical ordeal of reuniting immigrant families as “just a total labyrinth.”
In the context of these grave circumstances, Maria might be considered lucky. She and her father returned to the small Guatemalan city, Huehuetenango, where they had lived before attempting to cross the border. Nevertheless, the family is very poor. Although LivingonOne tells us that many families in the region have a small house, Maria’s does not; her father cites this as the main reason for attempting to cross into the US. It’s impossible to say what her family’s future will look like, but at least they will face it together.