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Woman recounts crossing border for asylum, being separated from son

Woman left Honduras fleeing violence and threats against her family

ROANOKE, Va. – The border crisis is causing heated debate across the country. Outrage about the family separation policy is still growing even after an executive order from President Trump. 

Now a local woman who crossed the border and was separated from her son for months is speaking out about the experience. This woman was separated from her child in 2016. That was before the zero tolerance policy. A local immigration lawyer said that, while incidents such as this have rarely occurred over the years, the new zero tolerance policy makes family separation standard.

We are calling this woman Maria to protect her identity.

Maria left Honduras in 2016, fleeing violence and threats against her family. When she and her 3-year-old son arrived at the United States border, she turned herself in to immigration officers, seeking asylum and a new life. While she was being processed, her son was taken from her. She ended up in a detention facility.

"I would ask officers where my son was at. I was given no answer of where he was at or what his conditions were," said Maria.

Maria spent about a month and a half in a detention facility before she was allowed to move to Virginia where some of her family lived. After months of questions, Maria was able to speak with her son on video calls. 

"He was not the same child he was when we left Honduras," said Maria.

He was not the same child. He turned 4 in a detention center and was confused. 

"He started calling the officers mothers and fathers and little brothers and little sisters, and I was his mother," said Maria. 

"We that are mothers and are going through that -- it's something very heartbreaking and very painful, having to experience all of that," said Maria. 

It took seven months and three days for Maria to be reunited with her son. It was a moment of pure happiness, but the pain wasn't completely gone. 

"At night, he would sometimes wake up crying, telling me, 'Mom don't leave me. I don't want to be separated from you,'" said Maria. 

Now, Maria's son is recovering. Maria has a new husband and a baby on the way. The family is still in the process of pursuing asylum. Maria's immigration journey is not over, and she hopes the government will make the process easier for families. 

"It's not OK for the parents who are currently going through being separated from their children, that they have to go through that. That should be stopped," said Maria. 

Maria's lawyer, Jennifer Dean, agrees.

"I think if we are able to instill that humanitarian perspective then we can hopefully create a process that's more humane," said Dean. 

Maria's case could take a couple of years. If she and her son aren't granted asylum, they could be deported.