Father of Honduran girl whose devastated face shocked America says she is with her mother in Texas

Harriet Alexander
Yanela Varela Hernandez, aged two, weeps as her mother Sandra is patted down by border agents in Texas. She is currently with her mother at a shelter, her father said - Getty Images North America

The father of the little girl on the US-Mexico border, whose distraught face came to symbolise the plight of families separated by the Trump administration, has said that his daughter and wife are together, and doing well.  

Denis Javier Varela Hernandez, 32, said that his two-year-old daughter Yanela was with his wife Sandra in a shelter.

Mr Varela Hernandez, a ship’s captain from Puerto Cortes, Honduras, said he had not spoken to his them, but was informed on Wednesday that they were in custody in Texas.

“My heart broke because it's my little girl,” he told Spanish language network Univision. 

“The first time I said that's my little girl when I saw the report.

“Of course I cried, it's really hard. I can imagine that my wife was very fearful crossing the border because she took the decision.”

Mr Varela Hernandez said he had urged his 32-year-old wife not to make the journey.

On the journey to the US, the girl was photographed crying while her mother was searched, and she has been featured on the cover of this week's Time magazine.

But, he told DailyMail.com, she had repeatedly said she wanted to go to the US for a “better future” and seek work, and left their Honduran hometown without telling him or any of their family members.

“I didn't support it. I asked her, why? Why would she want to put our little girl through that?” he told the website. 

“But it was her decision at the end of the day.”

Mr Varela Hernandez said his wife set out with their child on June 3, at 6am, and he had not heard from her since.

“I never got the chance to say goodbye to my daughter and now all I can do is wait,” he said, adding that he hopes they are either granted political asylum or are sent back home.

Border patrol agents take into custody a father and son from Honduras near the US-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 near Mission, Texas. Credit: Getty

“I don't have any resentment for my wife, but I do think it was irresponsible of her to take the baby with her in her arms because we don't know what could happen.”

The couple has three other children, son Wesly, 14, and daughters Cindy, 11, and Brianna, six.  

“The kids see what's happening,” he told the site. “They're a little worried but I don't try to bring it up that much. They know their mother and sister are safe now.”  

Mr Varela Hernandez said he heard from friends that his wife paid $6,000 (£4,500) to a people smuggler to help her and Yarela across the border. 

Protests against the Trump administration's policy of separating children from their parents, which Mr Trump ended on Wednesday Credit: Reuters

“I wouldn't risk my life for it,” he said.  “It's hard to find a good job here and that's why many people choose to leave. But I thank God that I have a good job here. And I would never risk my life making that journey.”

He said Mr Trump’s policy of separating children from their parents was cruel.

“I've never seen it in a positive light the way others do. It violates human rights and children's rights. Separating children from their parents is just wrong. They are suffering and are traumatised,” he said.

“The laws need to be modified and we need to have a conversation. It's just not right.  

“Immigration and drug smuggling across the United States border is never going to stop. They can build a wall and it's never going to stop.”