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Heartache of Family Separations; :The Long-Lasting Impact of Family Separations. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 7, 2018 - 14:00:00   ET


[14:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to the program, everyone, and here's what's coming up. Riding the death

train to America's border. We bring you a heart wrenching report on family separation as hundreds of children still wait to be reunited with their

parents. What will it take to build a better American immigration system? I ask Cesar Vargas, the first undocumented immigrant to join the New York

State Bar.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.

The separations of nearly 3,000 families at the U.S. southern border this summer sparked outrage from across the aisle. Eventually, forcing the

Trump administration to reverse its own zero tolerance policy and leaving a bureaucratic nightmare in its wake. Above all, it was a dark reminder of

the pain that separations bring to families who risk it all for a better life.

And to get a real feel for this huge tragedy beyond the headlines and the snapshots, Journalist Guillermo Galdos has been following some of the

desperate people on their journey. Here's his report.


GUILLERMO GALDOS, CHANNEL 4 NEWS: This is a story of two women, one traveling to Mexico bound for the U.S., desperate to find safe life with

her children.


GALDOS: The others has already made the journey but was deported back to Guatemala without her daughters.


GALDOS: And is now fighting simply to bring them both home. It's the cheapest ticket to the United States. A network of Mexican cargo trains

whose extra loads are all chasing an American dream. For those with no money, thiis the only choice.

The 20-year-old Dunya (ph) is from Honduras. She's six months pregnant and is traveling with her 4-year-old son. While her husband Marlon (ph) keeps

watch. Back home, they say local gangs tried to kill them when they took over their neighborhood. Soon after, the news came that Donald Trump was

no longer separating parents from children at the U.S. border so they decided it was time to head north. We join them in Southern Mexico as they

began their dangerous stop start journey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know what happened. Sometimes immigration stops the train and sometimes also the Mexican cartels who charge a fee to

the migrants is well-known, they make millions out of it

GALDOS: This was a false alarm and the train started up again. They still have over a thousand miles to travel. The train carried the Dunya (ph)

(ph) and her family as far as Chiapas Southern Mexico. To reach the U.S. border, they will have to catch at least five more. They left Honduras

over a week ago.


GALDOS: It's almost 4:00 a.m. but "La Biesta" or the beast as it is known has no timetable. So, no one wants to miss it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All these people are going up north to the United States. They are running away from poverty and violence in Central

America. Entire families and children as young as three.

GALDOS: They have slept just two hours.


GALDOS: Here they must board the beast while it's moving, but it's going too fast for them to jump on. With no money, these young family has choice

but to walk 10 hours to a migrant shelter in the next town.


GALDOS: And tempers half rain.


GALDOS: (INAUDIBLE) were 50 miles away. Dunya (ph) is worried she may not make it.


GALDOS: We have only the tracks as guide. A banishing day in 35 degrees heat. About 13 hours later, all finally made it.


GALDOS: After days from the road, this refuge provides a rare moment of calm. For Dunya (ph) her family, it's their first hot meal in a long time.

It is also a rare safe place for young women making this journey alone. Everyone here is heading to the U.S. They are still not even half way



GALDOS: Almost 300 miles south in Guatemala City, all of those who made this dangerous journey now find themselves back where they started. Up to

five planes land here every day from the U.S. carrying the deported.


GALDOS: Most here don't feel very lucky. This year's Trump's zero tolerance policy deported hundreds of parents back to Central America

without their children. In June, he signed an executive order to end it. But most families have still waiting to be reunited.


GALDOS: Gratis (ph) was one of them.


GALDOS: She also rode "La Biesta" to reach the United States but was picked up for crossing the U.S. border illegally then deported back to

Guatemala nine months ago without her two daughters. Gracie and Jennifer are just three and five years old. They are being held in a detention

center in Texas. The Trump administration says parents like Gratis (ph) her knew the risks. After she was deported, she did not speak to her

children for two months.


GALDOS: Now, she one phone call a week. She says both girls have grown increasingly distant.


GALDOS: Gratis (ph) has no idea if she will ever see her daughters again. Back in Mexico, Dunya (ph) and her family are now just 500 miles from the

U.S. border and are ready to catch their next train. Marlon (ph) jumps on the first carriage to ask the driver to stop, leaving Dunya (ph) alone with

Marlon Jr. (ph)

Her husband's plan doesn't seem to be working. So, a kind stranger helps her son onto the train. But it's still moving too fast for Dunya (ph).

After Dunya (ph) chases the train for ten minutes, it finally stops.

Marlon Jr. (ph) is confused and terrified. We tried to help Dunya (ph) find her husband. With no sign of him, she finds space where she can.

Then he turns up.


GALDOS: It has been a long morning but the family have to keep going. The train crosses into Tabasco State. Dunya (ph) and husband haven't spoken

all day. As the lights fades, a moment of nighttime normality while the faithful appeal for salvation.


GALDOS: Like Dunya (ph), Gratis (ph) also wanted her children to grow up in the U.S. instead of here in Guatemala. Now, she just wants them to come

home. So, she's comes to her capitol to push for government answers.


GALDOS: She has few options but to wait.


GALDOS: The U.S. government has begun to reunite families but only recently admitted that more than 400 people were deported without their

children. Gratis (ph) is just one of them.

Monterey is only two hours from the U.S. border. After six weeks of traveling, Dunya (ph) and Marlon (ph) have made it to Northern Mexico.

Dunya (ph) and her son will hand themselves over to U.S. authorities at the border and pray they won't be separated.

Now, almost eight months pregnant, Dunya (ph) and Marlon Jr. (ph) will apply for asylum until they have more chance if they go alone.


GALDOS: A few weeks ago, Dunya (ph)'s brother was picked up by Mexican authorities trying to make the same journey. They deported him back to

Honduras. Yesterday, Dunya (ph) found out that he was murdered by the same gang who have threatened her.



AMANPOUR: That heartbreaking report for Guillermo Galdos for Britain's Channel 4 News. But we are pleased to report some encouraging updates

exists on both families. Gratis (ph), for instance, was reunited with her daughters last Wednesday in Guatemala City after 11 months and 12 days

separated. Marlon (ph) and Dunya (ph), the couple, decided to cross together as a family in the end and they were detained by U.S. Border

Patrol but eventually released together and are currently living in Mississippi. Dunya (ph) is still waiting to give birth.

Now, what about their legal limbo? Their dream for better American life? I asked Cesar Vargas. He was just five years old when his mother brought

him across the border from Tijuana to San Diego nearly 30 years ago. And in 2016, he became the first immigrant without legal status to join the New

York State Bar.

Cesar Vargas, welcome to the program. You just heard and you've watched the heart wrenching film. You know, the story has kind of a happy ending,

thank goodness. But what's your reaction to the story of those two women?

CESAR VARGAS, CO-DIRECTOR, DREAM ACTION COALITION: For me, I couldn't help to think and remember of my own mother and the journeys she traveled to

come to the U.S. And while the journey is absolutely much more dangerous now than it was back then, it's still reminds me of the courage and the

ultimate sacrifice that each parent and one -- as -- and all of those women and women's and parents crossing the border each year, of the sacrifices

they're willing to do and to give just so they give their children can have a better life.

And for my mom, I can't imagine that she was going through all that, crossing the border, where she could have been killed, she could have been

raped. But in her heart, she was doing that, that one day her -- one of her sons could be an attorney.

AMANPOUR: You say it is now much, much more dangerous for these parents and for their kids. We've seen it, but tell us from your standpoint as an

immigrant and now an immigration attorney, why is it so much more dangerous now?

VARGAS: When I first came in probably like almost 30 years ago, the people were crossing back and forth, their points of entry were very accessible,

people were entering almost in urban areas, in city areas. Nowadays, because of walls and fencing, people have been directed to the deserts, to

more hostile locations where it's either it's scorching hot or there is no water and locations where they are subject to possible, you know,

confronting criminal enterprises like cartels.

So, there's -- the dangers now are definitely much more increased than what we saw back 30 years ago. And -- you know, and also the increase in

immigrants, that has also risen as a result of people dying in the desert, as a result of women and children are being killed or kidnapped. And you

know, I think these are the dangers that we're seeing now especially on this administration.

And of course, the danger not just of a crossing the U.S. border but now, the danger of being ripped apart not just by cartels but also by Federal

Government here in the U.S. where if you cross, your child could be ripped apart.

Unfortunately, that policy has been rescinded. But we are still seeing that many of these children, almost 500 children have -- are still

separated from their parents. Almost 400 of those parents have been deported. That means that their children are here alone, abandoned thanks

to the Federal Government.

AMANPOUR: And we've seen these awful images even in New York where we're talking right now of kids being taken to a facility in East Harlem under

the cover of night because nobody really wanted to show the world what was going on.

What hope do they have of being reunited? It's been very difficult for the government to actually try to reunify these people under a court order.

VARGAS: No. No question about it. It's much more difficult to reunify many of the people who have been -- the parents who have been deported.

You know, just to think about that, when a parent is deported, he or she comes from a small village in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and it's

difficult enough for us to locate the family here when the crisis was as its highest in New York City, many of these parents were in Indiana,

Florida and that was a challenge.

Now, the challenge that the Federal Government has to pretty much undergo is even higher, especially when we have to locate the parents in small

villages in Central America. And the worst, the Federal Government is forcing organizations like ACLU and or other nonprofits to do their work

when it was the Federal Government separating them.

So, you know, legally wise, the judge saw that the Trump administration created chaos when it came to separating families. And the Federal

Government had no plans whatsoever in reunifying those children, had no plan whatsoever to address any possible crisis, and it was an intentional

crisis, in fact. Attorneys themselves have a difficult time understanding immigration law, let alone a parent who probably doesn't know how to read

or write. And to separate their children, you know, for them it was the only option they thought that they had.

AMANPOUR: So, what happens now, for instance, to these families who we've been talking about, to people like the ones we saw in the film, Gratis

(ph), the woman from Guatemala City, who was separated for 11 months from her daughters? And they finally, the daughters now been deported out of

the United States and sent back and they're now in Guatemala. And as we know, Dunya (ph) and Marlon (ph), the other couple, they did come in and

they're somewhere in Mississippi right now.

What is the future for these people? How regular will it be for Dunya (ph) and Marlon (ph) to get immigration status here? And Gratis (ph) who's back

in Guatemala City, can she ever try again or she got a black mark on her record?

VARGAS: Yes. While Congress gets its act together, what we can do now is ensure that cities and states can provide the resource, to ensure many

people like Gratis (ph), people like Marlon (ph) and Dunya (ph), to ensure that they have legal representation to understand their cases.

Just this past week I had a two -- a couple who came from El Salvador and I had to help them really bring their court case from Texas all the way to

New York City, and now working with them to ensure that they find proper representation to help them with their asylum cases.

So, the losses are obviously convoluted but at least the states can provide legal representation. The City of New York has invested incredible

resources to ensure that we are allocating millions of dollars to ensure that these families have legal representations.

And of course, mental health services. Many of these children are suffering trauma like no other. And American Association of Pediatrics

have said that this is pretty government sanctions abuse. Immigration Customs Enforcement continues to separate families and we're going to have

a conversation, how do we abolish ICE and city councilman Carlos Menchaca and other leaders across the country are having the conversation, how

cities can act while the Federal Government fails to act.

AMANPOUR: So, let's just finally, you know, wrap this up. You use a very sort of shocking term, government sanctions abused on these children. I

mean, it puts it in dark relief, really, of what's happening to these children. But what do you say to the people who say, "Yes, we hate to see

these families ripped apart but we cannot have our border, you know, bust open by illegal immigration and if parents want to do this with their

children, well then, they know the risks"?

VARGAS: No. No questions that people obviously have concerns. And reasonable people can disagree, no question about that. But when we're

talking about immigration, we're not just talking about a problem here of people coming into the country and really settling down.

This is a bigger problem that we need to start talking about, about international policies of U.S., European policies, whether it's trade,

whether it's economic, we want to make sure that we address the intervention of the U.S. and European powers into places like Africa, the

Middle East, Central America. South America where the CIA has literally shown that they're intervening, assassinating leaders just to stabilize the

nations in South America, Central America (ph).

These are the root causes of immigration. No one wants to go through a dangerous journey just to come to the U.S. People want to live their

lives. And until we address that. We need to ensure that we can work on that so we can be better neighbors, all of us can be better neighbors. The

U.S. can be a better neighbor in North America, South American and Central American. And Europe could be a better neighbor to Africa, the Middle East

and Eastern Europe. That's what we need to do.

And we need address our foreign interventions by the U.S. and Europe to ensure that we address this root causes of the problems of family


Cesar Vargas, thank you so much for joining us.

And that is it for our program. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me on Facebook and


Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.