AURORA, Colo. — Immigration officials are still working to reunite children with the families they were separated from under the Zero Tolerance Policy. Fifty adults were sent to the ICE detention facility in Aurora.
Thousands of those families are seeking asylum in the U.S. as they flee violence in Central America. One woman who has gone through this journey a few years ago shared her story of escape from violence in El Salvador.
She tells her story from Colorado, where she has settled with her daughter. In 2016, she escaped El Salvador with her 5-year-old daughter after a death threat from a local gang. They traveled for a month and finally reached the Texas border.
At the time, under the Obama administration, family separations were not widespread but not unheard of either. Her daughter was taken to am HHS facility, and she was detained.
"The truth is I thought I wasn't going to see her again,” said the woman. "I told them they can’t do that. We have to be together. And then they told me if I didn't let them take her, they would immediately deport us both."
It took two weeks she said, for officials to locate her child’s whereabouts and three weeks before they could talk over the phone.
"I would say with God first, we are going to see each other again," the woman said as she recounted her phone conversations with her daughter.
More than a month later, they were finally reunited.
In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security said its process ensures that family members know where they are and have regular communication with their parents.
According to statistics provided by DHS, only 17 percent of the more than 2,000 separated minors in HHS facilities were placed there as a result of the Zero Tolerance Policy. The rest of 83 percent came to the U.S. without a parent or guardian.
For this woman and her daughter, they still have a long road ahead to convince a judge they are safest here in the United States.
"I can only say this should no longer happen. That no kid is taken from their parents because it's a trauma these kids go through. And it affects them and is impossible to forget,” she said.