She was on the road for days, crying & praying & recounting her story to kind strangers who offered to drive & house & feed her.
Freed from an immigrant detention center in AZ, she traveled nearly 3,000 miles to a place called New York — the place U.S. government… had taken her daughter.
Juana, a Guatemalan immigrant who crossed the border at a port of entry in AZ hoping to seek asylum, refused to stop for meals. She spent nights in the homes of well-meaning American families.
Each night a different city. Each morning a different car. Juana, whose lawyer asked that her last name be withheld for fear that identifying her could jeopardize her & her daughter’s legal case, was the beneficiary of a growing legion of volunteers who have offered up their cars, homes, food & clothing to aid migrant parents separated from their children as a result of the Trump administration’s “zero- tolerance” immigration policy.
In just two weeks, this loosely organized network of citizens has helped reunite nearly a dozen separated families, in some cases connecting them with housing, lawyers & other services they may need.
They call their coalition “Immigrant Families Together.”
“It’s empowering to think how much we’re getting done,” said Meghan Finn, a theater director & mother of two from Brooklyn who has helped lead the effort. “We’ve changed the course for these families & we’ve connected thousands of people across the country who have stepped up to help & formed this huge community.”
In most cases, the government has been releasing parents from detention & children from federal shelters, then transporting them to a meeting place to be reunited. The parents are usually given ankle monitoring devices & told they are free to go, but must report back for… hearings.
Immigrant Families Together is trying to speed the process by identifying parents who can be freed from custody, paying their bonds if necessary, then coordinating caravans to move the parents across state lines to where their children are being held.
Their first success was Yeni Gonzalez, whose story & tearful reunion with her three children in NY made national news last week.
Juana’s journey began Friday, after an online fundraiser collected enough to post her $15,000 bond at Eloy Detention Center in AZ & get her on her way. Unlike Gonzalez, she had already been cleared to claim her daughter. All she needed was to get to Cayuga Centers, the shelter in Harlem that also is responsible for Gonzalez’s children.
As of Wednesday, three more mothers from Eloy were waiting to be picked up & taken to their children. One was headed to Georgia. Another needed to get to TX. The third would also be making the journey to NY City. They would spend their nights in the homes of volunteers like Bill O’Brien, a resident of northern Detroit, who took in two Honduran fathers Tuesday night after they were reunited with their 3-year-old sons.