Originally published by The NY Times
When Ludin was released on bond from a federal detention center this week, an immigrant rights organizer brought the 43-year-old Guatemalan mother to the Austin airport for a flight to Providence, R.I. so she could reunite with the two children she had not seen in more than a month.
Forty days earlier, federal immigration officials in McAllen, Tex. had taken Ludin’s 9-year-old daughter, Keyri, from her arms after the family had crossed illegally while seeking asylum. Ludin said a criminal gang had threatened to kill her teenage son, Elmer.
I thought I’d never see them again, Ludin said the day after she was released. How would I come to give them away?
Ludin’s son and daughter were among the more than 2,000 children detained and separated from their parents by United States border officials since early May, under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy. Unlike many of the migrant families, Ludin, who asked that her last name not be published because of fears for her and her family’s safety, was not criminally prosecuted.
Her asylum case is pending, as are the cases for her daughter and 17-year-old son. Her husband, also named Elmer, came to the United States two years ago after his brother was killed and his life was threatened. His asylum case also is pending.
The federal government has reunified hundreds of families in recent weeks, but many still remain separated. Ludin recalled conversations she had with other women in detention.
Many women were saying, ‘You lucky one, you’re going to see your kids, you’re going to hug them. We still can’t.’ There are poor people still suffering, not knowing where their kids are.
This video explores what Ludin, Keyri and Elmer Jr. endured in their time apart.
For three days in South Texas, Ludin and her children were detained in separate warehouse cells. In addition to missing each other, each complained of frigid conditions and harsh treatment by government agents.
After three days in detention, the children were transferred to a shelter in Michigan operated by Bethany Christian Services. Keyri was placed in the temporary care of a foster family. On June 20, she and her brother were released to the custody of their father, who traveled from Westborough, Mass.
On Wednesday, as Ludin prepared to fly to Providence, the anticipation for the reunion was palpable. Elmer Jr. kept checking his watch. Keyri kept asking her papa when mama was coming. Then, four hours before her scheduled arrival in Providence, the children and their father received a call from Ludin: She had missed her flight through a miscommunication with Frontier Airlines and would have to rebook on a flight to Boston for later in the night.
The long-awaited reunion finally happened at 1:30 a.m. at Boston’s Logan Airport. The baggage carousels were mostly quiet. Security guards appeared to have gone home. Keyri, Elmer and their father, holding a dozen roses, fidgeted.
Finally, Ludin’s plane landed. When she appeared down a long hallway, the family burst into an all-out run.
The next day, Ludin and her children began pursuing separate asylum claims. While that process plays out, they will be allowed to stay together.