Esteban Pastor and his 18-month-old son were arrested last July after illegally crossing the southern border in El Paso and being deported. Nearly a year later, they are still struggling to find each other.
Following his child’s hospital stay in Guatemala City, Pastor resorted to illegally entering the U.S. to find work at a Mexican restaurant in hopes that he could pay off the loan.
Border Patrol agents placed Pastor’s toddler in a federal shelter, but failed to tell him the location when Pastor was deported alone three months later in October, the Houston Chronicle reports.
“I cried. I begged,” Pastor told the Houston Chronicle, adding that “no one could tell me anything.”
Aside from two tickets for driving without a license, Pastor does not have a criminal history.
Pastor’s story highlights the devastating human effects of President Donald Trump’s homeland security policy to separate immigrant children from parents who cross American borders illegally.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told a Senate Homeland Security Committee earlier this month that a new policy to arrest and file criminal charges against humans who enter America illegally, rather than catching and releasing them while they await deportation hearings, would tear apart more families with children, which now account for 40 percent of people detained by American border agents, as reported by the New York Times.
In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Michelle Brané, executive director of the migrant rights program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, said: “We have seen children as young as 18 months deported without their parents and more commonly, parents deported without their children. Parents arrive in Central America with no idea of how to get their children back.”
With another baby on the way, Pastor had only planned to stay in the U.S. for a few months until he could pay off his debt.
“Let me go back to Guatemala,” he begged upon being deported. “Don’t separate us.”
While being detained in El Paso, Pastor said he unsuccessfully inquired about his child’s whereabouts.
A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement to the Houston Chronicle that Pastor didn’t tell officials about his son until Sept. 1, days after transferring from prison. The spokeswoman insisted that officials arranged for him to receive an update on his son’s case and “make telephonic contact.”
That didn’t happen, according to Pastor. He said agents were too busy.
Advocates argue that detained parents are often not provided with enough information pertaining their immigrant children’s whereabouts.
“The steps to coordinating anything like this is mind-boggling, even if they have a system,” Brané said. “But they don’t.”