One year after the Trump administration announced its controversial “zero tolerance” immigration policy, the total number of families separated is unknown. CBS News met a father and son who spent nearly 11 months apart.
Jose Alvizures arrived in Calexico, California, on Friday, 324 days after being separated from 10-year-old Ervin. His journey to reunite with his son started in Guatemala, after he was deported in May of last year. Alvizures said he crossed the border with Ervin to seek asylum after getting death threats from gangs that control his town.
He told CBS News that once he was in custody, an officer approached him, gave him five pages and was told to sign the paperwork. But he said he didn’t know what it was since he couldn’t speak or read English.
It was his own deportation order, sending him back to Guatemala, while keeping his son in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. Alvizures said he just hugged his son, and told him to take care of himself.
“The big wild card out there is whether there may be thousands more who have been separated. The government has remarkably asked for two years just to identify these new thousands of families,” said Lee Gelernt with the American Civil Liberties Union.
Ervin was in government care for five months before being released to an uncle in Arkansas. On Sunday, Alvizures finally flew there and reunited with his son, with the help of Al Otro Lado, a non-profit now working their asylum case.
Ervin’s family does not believe he was mistreated while detained, though they said he has nightmares. Ervin said each night, he and other children said a prayer — some would cry.
Now, 326 days later, Ervin and his father are back together, awaiting the next hearing in their asylum case. On Tuesday in federal court, the ACLU said it will push for the government to speed up the process of identifying and reuniting any families that remain separated.