In the first part of our series examining the human side of illegal immigration in the United States, we follow a Mexican family separated for years, then allowed to reunite. But only for a short time. Our correspondent, Alasdair Baverstock has their story.
After two decades, a family reunion.
A mother from Mexico flies to the United States to see her daughter, an undocumented immigrant, and her American-born grandchildren she’s never met.
Each lives through illegal immigration in their own way.
Imelda Gil, from Mexico’s Michoacan State, hasn’t seen her daughter for two decades.
Today, that will change. As part of a special migrant reunion program, she has attained a U.S. Tourist Visa, and is on her way to visit her far-away family.
Twenty years ago, her daughter left home to cross illegally into the United States, and like many of America’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, never returned.
“I speak with her on the phone every three days, and with video calls, but it’s not the same as seeing her in person. She says her only concern is that something will happen to me. That I might die, and she won’t be here when it happen,” she said.
She is one of more than 6,000 Mexicans to be reunited by the ‘Paloma Mensajera’ — or ‘Messenger Pigeon’ program since 2017.
It’s a joint effort between the Michoacan government, the U.S. State Department, and local migrant organizations, such as the Migrant Advocate run by Marco Ramirez.
“Little by little, a migrant becomes indifferent about their own family. That’s what happens. You feel a connection to your loved ones when you are with them in person, and when you leave, the love and the emotion begins to go away. So whoever you talk to about this program, it’s the greatest gift we could possibly receive,” Ramirez said.
There are 20 Mexicans in all, with stories like Imelda’s, on this flight. As the visitors step onto U.S. soil for the first time, their relatives wait for them at a welcoming event nearby.
One by one, they are reunited with their children.
“I feel very happy. It’s something I never thought would happen,” Isabel Gil said. “Because even if I cannot return to Mexico, at least God has already given me the joy of seeing her again.”
Her mother adds: “I’s wonderful, incredible. It’s a dream come true.”
A happy event, but as Imelda will spend the next month with her family here, she will witness first-hand the realities of life as an undocumented immigrant in America.