This is part 10 of an ongoing series about Lucy and her family as they host an asylum-seeking family here in the United States. In previous entries, we learned about the fact that Maria (an asylum seeker who crossed the border legally with her son, Juan) has been working toward reunification with her daughter Julia who crossed the border a year before Maria, and has been in a detention center ever since. As soon as Maria and Juan were released to live with Lucy months ago, they began petitioning for reunification. Since then, there has been a ton of paperwork, fingerprinting, background checks, phone calls, attorney interventions, and a lot of unknowns and frustration.
Lucy gives us more information about the final steps before reunification below.
A friend found a pro bono attorney who helps people with reunification. The attorney the detention center where Julia has been, and it made her so mad. She felt so sad that Maria has to deal with the women in charge of Julia’s case. I hope that we aren’t poking a bear, but they are just going so slowly. They keep telling me that there is a process but they aren’t saying how much longer it will take. Also, apparently most reunifications happen really quickly.
When I told one of my friends about this she said, “It makes me want to scream. How can they sleep at night? What are they waiting for??? What is going on???”
I replied, “$250/child/day reimbursement minimum. Some places get $750/day.”
After months of waiting, there was FINALLY some good news:
We finally received notification that Julia would be coming here on Wednesday afternoon. The note simply said that she would be arriving at 2:30 on Thursday. There was no flight info at that time. At about 7, I received a screen shot of the flight plan from New York. She was finally being reunified with her mom. But where was my wallet? I knew that I had it at the therapist’s office on Wednesday evening and I thought that it had been in my jacket pocket. I get really jumpy when I can’t find my wallet. No drivers license, no credit cards…dang, how was I going to park at the airport? Oh, right, there is a paper ticket option and I can pay cash; it’s just not what I usually do.
Wednesday night at about 11:00 pm I got a phone call from an unknown number. I didn’t answer it because I was trying to sleep. Then I got a text from the person who facilitated the sponsorship. Apparently Maia’s ankle monitor battery needed to be changed and they called her. I went downstairs and woke her up. She said that the second battery wouldn’t work and the first battery just ran out of juice. She knew that it needed to be changed but she didn’t have a charged battery. We would have to see her case manager in the morning. I still couldn’t find my wallet. Maybe it fell out of my jacket in the parking lot at the therapist’s office? Maybe one of my kids moved it?
We went to the case manager office (contracted by ICE) to check in regarding the broken battery. We were able to get two replacement batteries so that it wouldn’t happen again. Maria was also able to “check in” so that she didn’t have to go again for her regular check in on Monday. We were also able to get the regular check in day changed to Wednesdays so that she could check in and do a therapist appointment on the same day. The two locations are close to each other but both at about 40 minutes from our house. The regular case manager wasn’t there, but we told the woman who helped us that Maria and her daughter would be reunited later in the day. Two hours to get this taken care of when you include travel time. We stopped to get balloons on the way home.
We pulled Juan and my daughter out of school to go to the airport. The school was somewhat concerned that this was the second day in a row that Juan would miss school. We drove to the airport with signs of welcome and balloons. I started wondering what might go wrong. Did Maria have her paperwork? What would the chaperone (who was accompanying Julia) require? I brought my passport in case she needed to see ID from me.
We waited and waited at the airport. The flight landed at 2:00. I had my camera ready to catch the moment. At 2:30, Maria said, “There she is!!” I saw her and started recording. Yes, there were tears, and yes, many hugs. Juan appeared a little bit unsure of how he should react. The chaperone was there, and she helped us with the bags and asked us who we all were. She didn’t ask for documents, signatures, or anything. Then, she went back to the terminal to catch the next flight back.
We gathered everything up and headed for the cars. My husband went back to work with the balloons, and the rest of us went back to the house. Anna sat up front so that Julia and Maria could sit together. Lots of happiness in the car.
But wait, there is more. In the next post, we will learn about their dramatic first day together, and some of the challenges that have come up now that this sweet family has been reunited.