NEW YORK — An immigrant father from Guatemala dotes over his despondent teenage daughter during a weekly 10-minute phone call, while other parents wait weeks for the phone to ring.
A mother in Louisiana has phone video chats with her detained 5-year-old son in Texas, while a Honduran asylum-seeker had actual face time with his little girl, visiting her in person. He made sure to bring along a McDonald’s hamburger to share.
May also interest you: Bayer to stop sales of birth control device tied to injuries
Immigrant parents who were separated from their children under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy for illegal border crossings are struggling to communicate by any means possible in the age of instant, international social media with sons and daughters kept in government-contracted facilities around the country. For most parents, phone calls have been the only connection to their children as the separations dragged on for weeks.
Honduran immigrant Carla Garcia waits each day in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on calls for unscheduled telephone and video conversations with her son at a holding facility in Texas — calls she cannot return. She and 5-year-old Jonathan were separated after crossing the border together in late May. Garcia was released from detention a month later with an ankle monitor and moved in with relatives.
“I was happy to be able to see him, and then it was even more difficult to see him from far away,” she said. “He just looked at me, worried.”
Several parents say it has been difficult or impossible to maintain their composure as children break down in tears, complain of loneliness, ask for clues about when they might be released or think they were abandoned.
“She was crying, inconsolably,” said Guatemalan immigrant Josue Aguilar about his 16-year-old daughter, who he believes is at a holding facility somewhere in Texas. “She said, ‘I don’t want to be here anymore.’ I could only tell her to try and have a little patience.”
Aguilar said he and his daughter have just enough time to console one another before the calls end. They are only allotted 10 minutes.