A 5-year-old Guatemalan girl, who spent almost three months in U.S. government custody at a shelter in New York after being separated from her father at the California border, was finally returned to her parents Tuesday in Guatemala City.
Filomena's parents, Nazario and Marcela, hugged their little girl and cried at a child welfare home run by a Guatemalan government agency. Their daughter arrived in the capital on a commercial flight, along with several other children sent home by U.S. immigration authorities. (KQED is not disclosing their last names because the parents are concerned for the family's safety).
"It was very difficult to be separated like that," said Nazario, 32. "I feel happy again to have her with us."
Nazario has been trying to regain custody of Filomena ever since May 16, when, he said, two Border Patrol agents took her from his arms in a San Diego County holding facility. The father and daughter were one of almost 3,000 families separated as a result of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy, announced in April, to prosecute all unauthorized immigrants arrested at the border.
U.S. authorities later prosecuted Nazario in criminal court for illegally entering the country. He said he had fled to the United States after gang members threatened his life. But he gave up his claim for asylum, believing that doing so would allow him to get his child back. He was deported on June 20 without Filomena.