The father of the tearful two-year-old Honduran migrant girl who became the face of the “family separation” news coverage says that his young daughter was never actually separated from her mother when caught by U.S. Border Patrol.
Instead, he says, his daughter and her mother are together in U.S. custody at “at a family residential center in Texas.”
Moreover, the mother had been deported from the U.S. in 2013, according to a statement given by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to Buzzfeed on Thursday evening.
Denis Javier Varela Hernandez, 32, told the UK Daily Mail that his wife Sandra, 32, had taken their daughter, Yanela Denise, on a dangerous journey to the U.S. on June 3 without telling him. They had since been in touch, he said, and he learned the two had been detained together but never separated.
Yanela Denise became an iconic symbol of opposition to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, under which adults who cross the border illegally are prosecuted. As a result, children traveling with migrant adults are often taken to shelters separately until they can be reunited with their parents, a family member, or a sponsor.