By Sofia Menchu
GUATEMALACITY (Reuters) – Nine Guatemalan children separated from their parents at the U.S. border under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy were flown home on Tuesday and reunited with their deported families, Guatemala’s government said.
Nazario Jacinto Carrillo, a farmer from the village of Huehuetenango, embraced his 5-1/2-year-old daughter after what he said was their three-month separation since he was deported back to Guatemala and she remained in the United States.
“I thought ‘this is wrong because they’ve taken away my daughter’,” said Carrillo. His daughter was in San Diego, he said.
“I feel at peace, happy, content,” he said as he held his daughter in his arms and covered her with a blanket so she could not be photographed
The nine children, aged 6 to 14, were flown to Guatemala City from New York. They were the first Guatemalan children to be returned to their home country after being separated under the policy, said Guatemala’s social welfare ministry.
The U.S. government proposed on Aug. 2 that non-profit groups should take the lead in locating as many as 500 parents deported or removed from the United States without their children.
“I really missed my mom. When they separated us I felt really sad,” said 6-year-old Leo Jeancarlo de Leon after being reunited with his mother. “Now I want to go play with my toys.”
The boy’s mother, Lourdes de Leon, said the harrowing experience was a “torment” for the both of them.
“I want to go home. I’m happy,” said the visibly relieved mother. “We just want to be together a while.”
Some 2,500 children were separated from their families as part of Trump’s strict policy towards illegal immigration that began in early May. Many of the families, which fled to the United States to escape widespread violence at home, had crossed the border illegally, while others had sought asylum.
The Trump Administration ended the family separations in June after weeks of international outcry over the policy.
About 1,900 children had been reconnected with their parents or a sponsor by Aug. 3.
(Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Paul Tait)