A five-year-old Guatemalan girl, Dailin Lopez, was listening to a court translator relay the messages of an immigration judge through headphones when she broke down sobbing.
Her 24-year-old father, Noe Lopez, had been told he could not participate in her hearing. But when Dailin became inconsolable, the judge requested that Lopez be brought in to soothe her.
"I took her headphones off," Lopez said. "She was crying and crying and crying, and I said, 'calm down, they're not going to hurt you.' And she said, 'they're going to put me in jail,' and I said, 'don't worry, nothing is going to happen to you.'"
Since the Trump administration started separating immigrant families, children are increasingly having to appear before immigration judges without their parents. But attorneys in San Diego say the Department of Justice is even dividing the cases of families that were never physically separated while in custody.
Lopez and his daughter were not subjected to the pain of family separation that nearly 3,000 families are experiencing. They got lucky -- after crossing the border through Tecate in October, they were released together on parole after a few days in detention. They are now living in Encinitas together.