A 6-year-old girl, whose cries were heard on a viral audio recording, was reunited with her mother Friday.
Alison Jimena Valencia Madrid smiled contentedly and waved as she sat in her mother’s lap in a van parked at a Houston airport early Friday.
The smile was as powerful as her cries for help added to a growing public uproar that forced President Donald Trump to order that family separations stop as part of his “zero-tolerance” policy on illegal immigration.
The reunion happened more than a month after she was separated from her mother, Cindy Alinette Madrid-Henriquez. The two were caught illegally entering the U.S. on June 12 while rafting across the Rio Grande near Mission, Texas.
In secretly recorded audio provided to ProPublica last month, Alison is heard reciting her aunt’s phone number to immigration officials amid a chorus of wailing children crying out for “Mami” and “Papá.”
“I think God used her,” Madrid-Henriquez said Thursday. “He used all the people that up until now have helped make this possible. … I’m very proud of her.”
Madrid-Henriquez was detained up until late Wednesday in a Los Fresnos, Texas, facility until she was released on bond. Alison was flown from an Arizona shelter to Houston, where her mother was waiting to embrace her.
The mother-daughter reunion was a wild scramble throughout Thursday night and into Friday morning. Similar reunions have played out across the country as immigrant parents and their young children are reunited after weeks or months apart.
Madrid-Henriquez, 29, asked that media not be present for the reunion. The Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times honored her request for privacy and her attorney later confirmed the two had been reunited.
Under a federal judge’s order on June 27 the Trump administration was compelled to reunite “tender age” children younger than 5 within 14 days. The deadline was earlier this week.
Nearly 3,000 other children must be reunited with their families by July 26, according to the order.
It’s been an emotional three days for Madrid-Henriquez as the grief of being separated from her daughter finally lifted late Thursday when she got word that her daughter would be flown to Houston.
But now – finally – the pair is back together.
Video shows Alison walking hand in hand beaming up at her mother as they walk out of the airport to applause with other family members in tow. She quickly gets into a van and sits on her mother’s lap still smiling, still waving. An officer waves back.
Still, Madrid-Henriquez knows they face an uphill battle to remain in the U.S. because her asylum claim, like so many others, could be rejected.
The thought of being deported after making the long trek from El Salvador to the U.S. overwhelms her. In an interview while detained Madrid-Henriquez broke down in tears at the possibility of having to return to a country where her daughter was nearly kidnapped by a gang member.
For now the two plan to remain in Houston. Madrid-Henriquez’s sister, who lives there already, also is seeking asylum.
Madrid-Henriquez said they left nearly everything behind when they fled because of gang violence. A gang member had tried to rip Alison from her mother’s arms while they were out shopping one day. She previously said she knew then she had to do whatever it took to keep her daughter safe.
In the airport parking lot, Madrid-Henriquez looks worn out after a crazy week of frantically working to reach her daughter.
Alison, still grinning with happiness, turns back and offers a friendly farewell.
“Hasta luego,” or “bye,” she said before hopping into the van.