SAN DIEGO — Immigrant parents who reveled after joyful reunions with their young children spoke Wednesday of the traumatic impact of being separated from their sons and daughters for months after they were taken from them at the U.S. border.
The administration has been scrambling to reunify the families this week to meet the first of two deadlines set by a federal judge in San Diego who ordered thousands of children be given back to their immigrant parents. Scores of children separated from their families were sent to government-contracted shelters or foster care hundreds of miles away from where their parents were detained.
Roger Ardino, from Honduras, was happy to be back with his 4-year-old son, Roger Jr., who sat on his lap and played with the microphones as the father spoke to reporters. The father said he was still shaken by the ordeal he had to go through just to speak to his boy while he was in government custody. The two were separated in February.
He described feeling a pain in his heart and like he couldn't breathe after his son was taken away. The father held up his wrist and told reporters that after they were separated, he threatened to use a razor on himself if he couldn't speak to his son.
He spoke Wednesday at Annunciation House, an El Paso, Texas-based shelter, along with another father recently reunited with his child. They arrived there Tuesday.
"I was completely traumatized," the father said in Spanish. He added later: "Every time I spoke to him, he would start crying. Where are the rights of children? I thought children were supposed to be a priority here in the United States."
The father said he planned to live with relatives in the United States as his asylum case is processed, which could take years.
It wasn't immediately clear how many children remain in detention facilities.