3-Year-Old Asked To Pick Parent In Attempted Family Separation, Her Parents Say A Honduran couple says a Border Patrol agent told them one parent could stay in the U.S. with their three kids. The agent turned to their youngest and asked her which parent she wanted to be with.

3-Year-Old Asked To Pick Parent In Attempted Family Separation, Her Parents Say

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/741721660/741721661" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


We have an update today on a story that we reported last week. Last week, I was at the U.S.-Mexico border talking to families who entered into the U.S. seeking asylum and then were sent back to Mexico to wait for their day in immigration court. This is a Trump administration policy. In Mexico, I met a family who had fled gang violence in Honduras. Tania and her husband, Joseph, have three kids, including a little 3-year-old, who they call Sofi (ph). Sofi has a scar on her chest from open heart surgery. This is yet another reason why the family is trying to get into the U.S. - to get her medical care. Bob Moore is a reporter based in El Paso, and he was working with us last week. He brings us this update now. Good morning, Bob.

BOB MOORE, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: So we meet this family. They're in the middle of the immigration process. We're not using their last names because their cases are pending. But you and I watched them in immigration court last Thursday while their lawyer talked to the judge. What happened after that?

MOORE: The judge, as you'll recall, was very concerned about the girl's health, little Sofi's health. So the day after that court hearing, which would have been then Thursday, a doctor on contract with the Department of Homeland Security gave some tests to Sofi at a Border Patrol station and discovered that, indeed, she does have a very serious heart condition and said she could not be sent back to Mexico. So at that point, according to the family, the Border Patrol agent they were with said, OK, one parent will go back to Mexico then and the other parent will keep the kids and be allowed to stay in the United States. The agent then turned to 3-year-old Sofi and told her to make a choice - which parent did she want to go with?

KING: I can't stress this enough. This is a 3-year-old child. This is a toddler. We saw her. She is tiny. She's being told, pick a parent?

MOORE: Yes. And she is very close to her mother so she picked her mother. And then when it became clear that they were going to separate them from Joseph, their father, Sofi and her brother and sister freaked out. They grabbed onto the father, and the Border Patrol, according to the family, told Sofi, why are you crying? You told us you picked your mother.

KING: Wow. So then what happened next? Was the family ultimately separated?

MOORE: The doctor who looked at the girl apparently waged a very diligent effort to stop the family separation. He tried to persuade the agent for the next several hours on Thursday not to separate the family. It was left unresolved Thursday night. The doctor even stayed an hour beyond his shift trying to protect the family. The next morning, he came back to work. There was another agent on duty. He convinced that agent not to separate the family, and the family was allowed to stay together in the United States.

KING: You are very plugged in down there in this region, been working there for years. Did Border Patrol have anything to say to you about what happened?

MOORE: I asked the Department of Homeland Security for comment yesterday. The local Customs and Border Protection officials referred me to them. They had no response at all.

KING: OK. So Tania, Joseph and the kids now allowed to stay in the United States. What happens next for them?

MOORE: They left on Sunday to join family already in the Midwest of the United States. Tania is hoping that they, the kids, can get educated here, they can't go back to Honduras. She says they're not a danger to anyone, they just want an opportunity.

KING: Bob Moore, reporter in El Paso. Thanks, Bob.

MOORE: Thank you.

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.