Honduran boy ‘didn’t recognise parents’ after being separated from them at Texas border

Mythili Sampathkumar
Adalicia Montecino holds her year-old son Johan Bueso Montecinos, who became a poster child for the US policy of separating immigrants and their children, as his father Rolando Bueso Castillo caresses Johan's head: AP Photo/Esteban Felix

After being separated from his parents five months on the US-Mexico border, a 15-month-old boy did not immediately recognise his parents when reunited in Honduras.

Johan Bueso Montecitos had been separated from father Rolando Bueso Castillo in Texas this past March as part of the Trump administration's “zero tolerance” immigration policy which put undocumented immigrants in detention facilities away from their children, though many had crossed the border seeking asylum.

The baby had been placed in a facility in Arizona and remained there after Mr Castillo was deported back to his native Honduras. Johan became the embodiment of the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents when the Associated Press detailed his appearance alone in a courtroom for deportation proceedings per US law.

Johan was laughing in a just a little while as his parents held him, kissed him, and waited for the final paperwork to be finished at the Casa Belen shelter in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

His mother, Adelicia Montecino, expressed joy at having her son back but also anger for having been separated from him for so long.

She regretted missing her son's first steps, his first words, and his first birthday all because of the US' immigration policy which essentially made seeking asylum a crime.

Though family's had been detained under the previous administration of Barack Obama, people were released to await asylum court hearings.

The separating of families was a new policy undertaken by the Trump administration's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and despite statements from the White House, Department of Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen, and Attorney general Jeff Sessions - this is not codified by law. It was a policy that could have been rescinded unilaterally by Donald Trump at any time.

Johan's emotional return to his mother and father is just one of many, but the Trump administration is still tracking down guardians and their children after they were separated by ICE, failing to meet court deadlines set for children based on their age.

The chaos in reuniting families - parents and children being given different case numbers with no obvious system to match them and children being sent to facilities as far away as New York and Michigan - perhaps points to a policy that may have never intended on allowing the families to be together.

As of 20 July, the administration said it only been able to connect 450 of the roughly 2,500 children separated at the US border.

As NBC News reported: "Parents who are given final deportation orders must decide between leaving their children in the U.S. or agreeing to reunification and, consequently, deporting their children as well".

The policy has been ended through an executive order Mr Trump signed on 20 June but 17 states and Washington DC are still suing the government for its actions. The order also did address the underlying problem - not allowing people to seek asylum in the US without being jailed. Per US law, seekers must enter the US before applying for asylum.

Former Vice President Joe Biden had harsh words about the policy late last week, calling it the "one of the darkest moments in our history" and “all-out assault on human dignity".