Things That Matter

Undocumented People In The US Are Getting A Chance To Reunite With Family Thanks To This Program

It’s been two decades since Imelda Gil, 73, last saw her daughter. That’s because her daughter, Isabel, left her home of Michoacan, Mexico 20 years ago to cross illegally into the United States. Unfortunately, Isabel like many of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S, never returned.

Their story is similar to countless other undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. that leave their home country for a better life but also leave their family behind with no chance of seeing them again.

“I speak with her on the phone every three days, and with video calls, but it’s not the same as seeing her in person,” Imelda told CGTN. “She says her only concern is that something will happen to me. That I might die, and she won’t be here when it happens.”

But after years of separation and anxiety of the dangers that might await, they are finally getting the chance to reunite. As part of a unique migrant reunion program, Imelda will get a U.S. tourist visa and have the chance to meet her daughter and the American-born grandchildren she’s never met. 

Imelda is one of more than 6,000 Mexicans that have been reunited with their loved ones due to the ‘Paloma Mensajera’ or ‘Messenger Pigeon’ program that started back in 2017. 

Credit: CGTN / YouTube

The program is a joint effort between the Michoacan government, the U.S. State Department, and various local migrant organizations. One of those organizations is the Migrant Advocate which is run by Marco Ramirez. He says that the program goes a long way in helping bridge families together even if it’s temporary. 

“Little by little, a migrant becomes indifferent about their own family. That’s what happens. You feel a connection to your loved ones when you are with them in person, and when you leave, the love and the emotion begins to go away. So whoever you talk to about this program, it’s the greatest gift we could possibly receive,” Ramirez told CGTN. 

For Imelda, this moment has been decades in the making. She was joined by 20 other Mexicans on her flight to the U.S. that were all patiently waiting to touch down on American soil. 

Few can ever relate to the emotions that many of these migrant families go through upon reuniting for the first time,

The moment that her mother gets off the plane, Isabel is overcome with emotion. She says that through everything that she’s been through the moment she saw her mom mad it worth it. 

“I feel very happy. It’s something I never thought would happen,” Isabel says upon seeing her mother for the first time in 20 years. “Because even if I cannot return to Mexico, at least God has already given me the joy of seeing her again. A person comes to this country because they want a better life for their children. In Michoacan there is a lot of murder and kidnapping. I’m scared of being forced to live through something like that,” 

For Isabel, it hasn’t been easy for her and her three children making ends meet in the U.S. She worked through multiple cleaning jobs and had to juggle taking care of three kids, all while getting by without proper citizenship. Her fears heightened as President Trump took office in 2016 and enacted a more aggressive anti-immigration policy. 

“Once you enter illegally, it’s almost impossible to become legal. A lot of them are afraid of buying a home, even if they have the money to do so. They are afraid of investing in a business, Paola Chavarro, a U.S. immigration attorney, told CGTN. “They’re afraid because they’re here today, but they could be deported fairly soon.”

Isabel fears for her safety and her immigration status keeps her on edge. She knows deportation is always a possibility but is always prepared for the worst-case scenario.

 “You have to live in the moment, and hope that when you leave the house in the morning, you will return again at night. Because you never know,” she says.

While there are constant fears, Isabel and her mother can enjoy the next month together. Even if it’s only for a short while, it’s a moment that will last a lifetime. 

READ: A New Documentary Is Showing An Untold And Heartbreaking Side Of The Undocumented Life In The United States

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com