The powerful images of Sandra Ortíz and her son Bryan Chávez reuniting at the San Ysidro border crossing have circled the country and have become the symbol of hope for thousands of migrant families still separated.
Three years, seven months, and four days after immigration agents separated them, Ortíz and Chávez are the first migrant family reunited under the Biden administration, in what is expected to be the beginning of a massive reunification.
As reported by the Washington Post, the Biden administration hopes to relocate deported parents and reunify more than 1,000 families.
Ortíz, 48, decided to leave her village in the Mexican state of Michoacán, where violence was rampant. Her husband disappeared in 2010; his body was found two days later with gunshot wounds. Then the local cartel turned over the body of her teenage neighbor, a friend of Chavez’s, dismembered in a bag. And then they began trying to recruit her son.
The mother left Mexico with Bryan, who was 15 at the time, for fear of those threats becoming true. However, once separated at the border, the mother was deported, and Bryan moved in with relatives in Southern California and enrolled in high school.
Ortíz and Chávez are one of four families to be reunited this week as part of what government officials and immigration lawyers describe as “a trial balloon,” or a test to find the most effective ways to reunify parents and their children without reliving the trauma of separation, the Post continued.
So, with some reservation, lawyers working on her case told Ortíz that the process would involve her return to the same border crossing where she was separated from her son.
However, the love of family outweighed any trauma. The process of entry into the country this time was swift, and Ortíz now has a humanitarian parole document.
For the thousands of families still separated, the reunification of Ortiz and Chavez is a glimmer of hope.
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security agreed to process the first returning parents at the border. Ortíz’s flight to Tijuana — her first time on a plane — was booked. So was a coronavirus test and an appointment with Customs and Border Protection in San Ysidro.
“We are reuniting the first group of families, many more will follow, and we recognize the importance of providing these families with the stability and resources they need to heal,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters Sunday.
However, the process is just beginning.