By Laura Barros
Washington, May 7 (EFE).- Keldy Mabel Gonzales had to wait three years, seven months and 12 days to be reunited with her sons after the family got caught up in now-former President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” for Central American migrants seeking asylum in the United States.
This week, the evangelical pastor from Honduras became one of the first beneficiaries of current President Joe Biden’s efforts to undo some of the worst effects of his predecessor’s immigration policy.
“I was alone, waiting for a miracle,” Gonzales told Efe as she recounted the odyssey she has endured since setting out from Honduras with her two teenage sons in 2017.
On Tuesday, Keldy was the surprise guest at a family gathering in Philadelphia, where she embraced Erik and Mino for the first time since Sept. 22, 2017.
Also present were her oldest son, her mother and her sister, among other kin.
Returning to the US with her “head held high” after being deported to Honduras and spending the better part of two years waiting in Mexico was an answer to Gonzalez’s prayers.
“They were treating us as if we weren’t human, because not even with a little animal do you have to take away its puppy, and to we who are human beings they did such damage. That was so painful. I never imagined that they would act this way,” she told Efe.
Gonzales said that after losing six family members to violence in six years, she decided to go to the police.
But the attempt to seek justice led to more intense persecution and “threats on all sides,” forcing Gonzalez, her three sons and much of the rest of the family to flee Honduras.
They made their way across Guatemala and Mexico to the US border, where they turned themselves in to authorities on Sept. 20, 2017, which was the common practice for asylum-seekers.
Keldy said she was confident of obtaining asylum for her family based on the “strong evidence” she presented of what they had suffered in Honduras.
But she had not reckoned on Trump and the “zero tolerance” policy.
While family separation at the border was not unheard of in the past, the Trump administration made it the standard procedure.
Two days after they surrendered to the Border Patrol, Gonzales was informed that she was to be held at a detention center while Erik and Mino, then 13 and 15, respectively, would go to a shelter.
The boys spent a month in the shelter before being handed over to Gonzales’ sister, a legal US resident living in Philadelphia.
Keldy, initially told that she would be held for five days, was detained for 18 months at a prison in El Paso, Texas, before being deported to Honduras.
“They came in one night at 11:30 and told me ‘gather your things, you’re going'” before putting her on an airplane in handcuffs and shackles, Gonzales recounted.
Once back in Honduras, she gathered more evidence for her US asylum claim and prepared to return to Mexico and renew her application.
“This was the cruelest thing I could experience,” Keldy said. “That they deported me, taking from me my children who I carried in my womb, who I nursed, who I cared for.”