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Released and reunited: “Dad, there's three different kids, three of us, living with the same family"

Sayma, a 10-year-old girl, tells her father how she does homework at an institution and then they sleep in 'Mrs. Mary's' house. As a consequence of the ‘zero tolerance’ policy, more than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents. This is one of the stories we tracked down thanks to ProPublica's project in partnership with other media outlets, which allows family members to track down loved ones.
19 Jul 2018 – 06:47 PM EDT
Damaris García and her daughter Sayma Sarahi Salazar. Crédito: Art David Maris

Country of origin: Guatemala.

Date and place of detention: Arizona, May 28 th, 2018.

Who is looking for them:husband and father (Luis Alberto Salazar Samayoa).

Detained mother: Damaris Dalila García Ríos.

Child detained in shelter: Sayma Sarahi Salazar García (10 years old).

Child location (approximate): San Antonio, Texas.

Detention Center where adult is detained: Eloy, Arizona.

Have they communicated?: Yes.

Three days after this story was published, mother and daughter were released from their detention center and shelter and are now reunited with their family in the US.

The last time Luis Alberto Salazar Samayoa spoke with his 10-year-old daughter, separated from her mother at the Arizona border, she was “gone, worried, I tried to cheer her up. ‘Why is your hair messed up?’, I asked her, because she is always neatly combed.”

Sayma Sarahí replied: “I'm sad, there is a girl here who has been waiting for nine months and I don’t want to be here all that time, I want to go already, I don’t know how mom is". Luis Alberto tried to calm her and told her that he had been able to talk to her mom too and that she was calm. But he was lying. At that moment he had not heard from Damaris Dalila García Ríos, who is held in a detention center in Eloy, Arizona.

The "here" his daughter referred to is a house. “There's three different kids, three of us, living with the same family”, she told her dad on the phone. She told him they took her with several other children on a plane “and I traveled maybe two hours or less,” but she has no idea where she is.

What Samay does know is that there is a routine. During the day they are taken to a sort of detention center where they receive classes, and at the end of the afternoon they are taken back to the house. “Mrs. Mary comes to get us every afternoon", she says, and the assigned social worker is called Destiny. The only known information is that she is somewhere in San Antonio, Texas, but the family has not received any other information that would allow them to locate her.

Communications have not been so fluid with his wife. “The first time I was able to communicate with her, I heard her voice for 30 seconds, but she couldn’t hear me. One day, after two failed attempts we were able to speak”.

“She told me she was worried, because in there they witness terrible injustices, human rights abuses. Her voice was cracking. She told me that they are treated badly, and that once they saw how several ICE people (immigration officials) beat up a man and turned around and said to them, ‘What are you looking at?’. She tells me that there is psychological abuse too". They are also threatened with not seeing their children again, among other things that Luis says she told him.

His wife wants to get out of all this. “Let them deport us, but let us reunite with our children".

He has unsuccessfully asked the Guatemalan Consulate for help.

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