A child from Honduras is brought to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Grand Rapids, Mich., Tuesday, July 10, 2018. Two boys and a girl who had been in temporary foster care in Grand Rapids have been reunited with their Honduran fathers after they were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border about three months ago.
Photo: AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Photo: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Separated at the border, Honduran dad and his 3-year-old are reunited

Jose and his son crossed the border in May, fleeing violence in their native Honduras after gang members killed three family members.

The 27-year-old farmer was sent to a detention center in south Georgia and his son, 3, was sent to a facility in Arizona in keeping with the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.

On Tuesday Jose and his namesake were reunited in Phoenix.

“I thank God to be with my son,” he said in a statement released by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is assisting him with his asylum case. “It was very difficult to be separated from him for so long.”

PAST COVERAGE: Border stop puts 1,000 miles between Honduran immigrant and his 3-year-old

Finding little Jose: How the 3-year-old son of Honduran immigrant was located

Honduran man who fled deadly violence brought closer to his son 

Jose didn’t want to give his full name, fearing for the safety of his common-law wife and other loved ones still in his homeland. He and little Jose are now headed by bus to northern Virginia, where they will stay with a relative. The father has been fitted with an electronic ankle monitor while their asylum claims are pending; an immigration court hearing is scheduled for July 19.

President Donald Trump last month signed an executive order ending the policy of separating children from parents at the U.S.-Mexico border following international outrage. The administration has acknowledged it missed a deadline set by a San Diego federal judge to reunite detained children under 5 with their families. Trump responded to questions about the missed deadline just before departing for this week’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Belgium.

“Don't come to our country illegally,” he said. “Come like other people do. Come legally."

Little Jose had been held in a government shelter in Glendale, Ariz. Peter Isbister, a senior lead attorney for Southern Poverty Law Center’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative, said the father and son reunion was a touching one.

“We are very glad our client is reunited with his son,” he said. “It seemed pretty apparent that the little boy was emotional as well.” 

Isbister and a colleague connected with the dad and son via FaceTime on Tuesday.

“I could see the clear beaming delight on my client’s face as he thanked God again and again,” Isbister said. “He became clearly emotional as he described how hard it was to be separated from his son for so long.”

The dad encouraged his son to greet their lawyers over the phone. The 3-year-old seemed too overwhelmed to say much, but managed a wave.

“We were fighting back tears as well,” Isbister said. “I was thinking of my own children, not much older than my client’s boy.”

He asked which toys the child likes and learned he’s a fan of PAW Patrol, a Nickelodeon Jr. show created in partnership with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It’s about a 10-year-old who responds to calamities like cats stuck in trees with the help of his trusty band of rescue dogs in training.

“Each pup is inspired by a real-world job like firefighter, police officer, and construction worker,” the show’s web site explains. “For kids, PAW Patrol is a fun way to learn bravery and heroism, with exciting stories that never get too scary.”

The SPLC got little Jose a PAW Patrol toy to welcome him to America.

Jose, 27, and his son Jose, 3, after being reunited. Photo credit: Gracie Willis, SPLC

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.