As Migrant Families Are Reunited, Some Children Don’t Recognize Their Mothers

PHOENIX — One mother had waited four months to wrap her arms around her little boy. Another had waited three months to see her little girl again.

When the reunions finally happened Tuesday in Phoenix, the mothers were met with cries of rejection from their children.

“He didn’t recognize me,” said Mirce Alba Lopez, 31, of her 3-year-old son, Ederson, her eyes welling up with tears. “My joy turned temporarily to sadness.”

For Milka Pablo, 35, it was no different. Her 3-year-old daughter, Darly, screamed and tried to wiggle free from her mother’s embrace.

“I want Miss. I want Miss,” Darly cried, calling for the social worker at the shelter where she had been living since mother and daughter were separated by federal agents at the southwestern border.

The tearful reunions — ordered by a court in California — came as the government said that it would release hundreds of migrant families wearing ankle bracelet monitors into the United States, effectively returning to the “catch and release” policy that President Trump promised to eliminate.

Faced with a pair of court orders restricting immigration detentions, federal officials said that they could not hold all of the migrant families who had been apprehended. They said that their hands were tied by dueling requirements to release children from detention after 20 days and also to keep them with their parents or other adult relatives.

Trump administration officials also said that they have stopped referring migrant adults who enter the United States with children for prosecution.

“Parents with children under the age of 5 are being reunited with their children and then released and enrolled into an alternative detention program,” Matthew Albence, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s executive associate director of enforcement and removal operations, told reporters on Tuesday.

He said that means the migrants will be given ankle bracelets “and released into the community.”

Government officials said they were struggling to meet Tuesday’s court-ordered deadline to reunite 102 migrant children under 5 with their parents; only about one-third were expected to be reunited by then.

By By Miriam Jordan, Katie Benner, Ron Nixon and Caitlin Dickerson for THE NEW YORK TIMES
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