Update On Separated Parent A group of Central American parents separated from their children when they were deported from the U.S. say they have a legal right to be reunited with their kids.
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Update On Separated Parent

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Update On Separated Parent

Update On Separated Parent

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

We've been following the story of one father separated at the border from his daughter. In the past, we've referred to the father as John because he feared reprisals. But he's comfortable now with using his real first name, which is Elmer. Last July, Elmer was deported back to Honduras alone, while his 15-year-old daughter, Marisol, is still in the United States. James Frederick joins us now from Mexicali, Mexico, with an update. Good morning, James.

JAMES FREDERICK, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So James, catch us up with what's been happening with John/Elmer since we last spoke. Where are you now, and where is he?

FREDERICK: So I am on the U.S.-Mexico border in Mexicali. Elmer is also here. It took him a long time. He was in Honduras for a while. Then he spent several months in Guatemala waiting, trying to figure out what to do. But all these months later, he is now just steps away from the U.S.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And you joined yesterday at the border with a group of parents, among whom is Elmer, who are trying to reunite with their kids in the United States.

FREDERICK: Yeah. So - so basically what happened after Elmer and other families were separated, lots of different groups of people got to work on reuniting these families. And so mainly this group of lawyers called Al Otro Lado went searching for people like Elmer. They went to Guatemala and Honduras. And they found 29 different families. They have brought all of them up here to the U.S.-Mexico border with the mission of reuniting them with their children in the U.S. So I'm going to take you back to when I first saw Elmer yesterday after speaking to him for a long time.

When I saw Elmer just hours before he might be back in the U.S., we sat down to talk. And he thought back on when he and Marisol first crossed into the U.S. and were separated.

ELMER: (Speaking Spanish).

FREDERICK: He says last time, authorities wouldn't let him talk. He felt like he had the wool pulled over his eyes and was forced to sign papers he didn't understand. Soon enough, he was deported. But this time will be different, he says. Elmer's been prepped by lawyers, and he isn't here alone. Early on Saturday morning, rolling little suitcases, these 29 families plus lawyers, advocates and American religious leaders, began walking towards the pedestrian border crossing in Mexicali.

The idea was for Elmer and all these other separated parents to walk to the gate leading into the U.S. and simply hand themselves in and request asylum. Erica Pinheiro, the litigation head of the legal group Al Otro Lado, says given the scrutiny around family separation, there's no reason this should be a problem.

ERIKA PINHEIRO: DHS leaders have said that they're doing everything they can to reunify the families. So I'm hoping that they're grateful that we've done their work for them and have these families very conveniently at the port of entry to be admitted and reunified with their children.

FREDERICK: But as with everything around migration, it wasn't simple. Customs and Border Protection agents told the families to wait while hundreds of commuters casually walked through the gate. CBP then told the families they didn't have space to take them all. A few hours later, they said they needed to see proof of separation from children. Later, they asked the lawyers for more paperwork. As the sun started to set, Pinheiro began prepping the families to dig in for the long haul.

PINHEIRO: (Speaking Spanish).

FREDERICK: But then, all of a sudden, that changed.

PINHEIRO: (Speaking Spanish).

FREDERICK: After a long wait today, CBP suddenly gave the word all 29 families would be let into the United States today. They lined up really quickly, grabbed their bags. And they are now walking back into the United States.

Elmer was one of the first to go. He only managed a few words before he walked through the gate.

ELMER: (Speaking Spanish).

FREDERICK: "Thank you," he told the attorney, Erika, "we don't know how to thank you enough."

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what happens next for Elmer and these other parents?

FREDERICK: Well, it's really unpredictable. And that's just the reality of when people go into the immigration system. I asked the lawyers what the outlook is for them. And it really could vary. So they said there is a possibility that Elmer and these other families are let out very quickly - I mean, are literally just let out of this same building into Calexico, Calif.

But there's also a possibility that these people could spend months in detention as their asylum cases are processed. It, of course, was a big step, what happened yesterday. But they are certainly not back with their children yet.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's reporter James Frederick in Mexicali, Mexico. Thank you so much.

FREDERICK: Thank you, Lulu.

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