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Families reunite after nearly 2 years apart: 'Beginning of a whole other journey'

Brittny Mejia, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- The boy rocked back and forth as he searched every face at the airport, trying to find his father.

Byron Xol blended with dozens of others waiting at Los Angeles International Airport to greet their loved ones. But then a man behind Xol asked how long it'd been seen the 9-year-old had seen his dad.

"Over 600 days," said Holly Sewell, whose family has cared for Xol for the last nine months. Her eyes filled with tears.

Byron had been waiting nearly two years for this moment.

His father, David Xol, was among nine parents who arrived from Guatemala City late Wednesday night. All of them had been deported without their children during President Donald Trump's separation of immigrant families.

In September, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw declared the removals unlawful and ordered the government to allow them to return to the U.S.

 

The nighttime reunion served as a reminder of the lasting impact of the Trump administration's family separation policy on thousands of children and their parents. Advocates for migrants say the administration has continued to quietly separate hundreds of families using different tactics.

"As happy as this reunion is, it's really the beginning of a whole other journey for these parents and children who have been highly traumatized by what they've been put through," said Dr. Amy Cohen, a child psychiatrist who has worked closely with Byron and his family.

The total number of children separated from a parent or guardian under Trump remains unknown. At least 471 parents were deported without their children and some have yet to be reunited.

"I want to make sure that people understand this is a crisis that's still going on, it's not resolved," said U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., who was at the airport to greet returning parents. "I know that there's impeachment going on, I know that there is a presidential election going on, but these families' lives haven't been able to move on because they've been ripped apart."

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