Eight drivers, five days: A migrant’s emotional journey to find her daughter


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.
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Ever Reyes Mejia, 30, and another father, also in his 30s, arrived at O’Brien’s home with only their children & the clothes on their backs. He gave them clothes & toys & food that was bought & donated by members of O’Brien’s church & community.

It’s not just individuals. Companies like Lyft have partnered with nonprofits to offer free rides to migrant families & advocates. Cayuga Centers collected hundreds of toys from donations via an Amazon wish list.

Rosalie Lochner, a philosophy professor turned stay-at-home-mom, has spent the last week at the marble-slab table in her Detroit kitchen, cold-calling anyone she could think of to build a database of people willing to donate frequent flier miles, toys, clothes, food & more. She said she’s received more offers than she knows what to do with.

“I, as a citizen, feel like I am responsible for this policy & am responsible for helping in some small way to change it,” she said.

Juana’s journey included a total of eight drivers over five days. They took her from AZ to NM to CO to NE to IL to MI where she settled into a minivan driven by Mira Sussman, a mother of three from Ann Arbor. They spent five hours Monday driving to Pittsburgh, Sussman said. She drove most of the way a few miles an hour under the speed limit — just in case.

“I was terrified we would be pulled over in a regular traffic stop & they would find her & take her away again & she’d never make it to NY to see her kid,” Sussman said. “I was being so careful.” Juana, exhausted, crawled into the back seat of the minivan, held her Bible to her chest, & slept.

She woke in OH, Sussman said, & talked about what she had gone through, how she & her daughter, who is 15, would carry this experience with them for the rest of their lives. She used the word trauma, which sounds the same in Spanish as it does in English. Sussman said her Spanish “isn’t very good,” but she understood.

“I told her she has so many friends across the U.S. now who care about her & her family & their well being,” Sussman said. “I’m glad we have the opportunity to show her that there are people with morals & courage in this country, but it’s just disgusting that we have to do this at all.”

On Tuesday, after traveling from Pittsburgh to Newark, Juana got into one last car for the drive into NY City. She met her daughter at the shelter & hugged her for the first time in weeks.

A volunteer sent a message to a group text that included eight of the volunteers who helped Juana get there: drivers, organizers, translators, people who offered Juana a place to spend the night. “Got her,” it said. The recipients responded joyfully, sending each other congratulations & emoji of big red hearts.


Thank you for posting this,HCTC!


Your so welcome.


This is something the history books will remember. Evil never wins, it just brings greater good into the world. Thank you for keep this front and center. I know some folks on this forum would like to say, it’s all over, move on, nothing here to see…


In the middle of all the misery and cruelty perpetrated by the current administration, the real goodness of America shines a light.


Why you so negative on the Harlem facility?


Did you ever read the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis? It’s a brilliant book. In it, the demon Screwtape chastises his nephew Wormwood for inspiring someone to do a truly evil act. Screwtape says that is self defeating, because it just creates a backlash of goodness.

I though we had left the kind of evil that inspired that book behind in the 20th century, but here it is again, in our own nation - and some Christians defending it. It boggles the mind and breaks the heart.


Why do you care about the Harlem facility?


You were riding on the administrator


So why didn’t this women let ICE fly her to her daughter, or visa versa?
ICE is responsible to reunite them, not release the kids onto the street.

Me thinks the drama was manufactured.


Or denying it as “manufactured.”


Do you think every victim of right-wing policies is a crisis actor?


How long would it taken ICE to reunite them? Would you have patiently waited for your terrorists to get you back to your child?


If it wasn’t for these Good Samaitans, Juana would still be incarcerated:

“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.”

“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.”

I wouldn’t be waiting for ICE to return my child to me!


You are deflecting again, ignore the very clear points I made.


Don’t forget Sandy Hook and Parkland.


Thwarting law and truth for an open borders ideology is the evil.


An example of the of the evil regarding the thwarting of truth.


Are you actually accusing people of this?
How ironic.

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