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Families Divided

“A very cruel punishment”: A family split by “zero tolerance” won’t try to cross again, mom says

Since they crossed the Rio Grande and requested asylum, a father has been held in a detention center near Houston while his 6-year-old daughter was shipped to an Arizona shelter. Back in Honduras, the girl's mother says she fears her daughter will be traumatized by the ordeal.

Six-year-old Heyli was separated from her father after crossing the U.S. border in late May. Her mother and aunt, who have spoken to her by phone, say she cries constantly and begs them to take her away from the Arizona facility where she is being held. 

"There's nothing else I can say to say to make her stop crying," Heyli's mother said.

Families Divided

The Trump administration's “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which led to the separation of children from adults who crossed the border illegally, has fueled a national outcry. Sign up for our ongoing coverage. Send story ideas to tips@texastribune.org.

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Heyli's bedroom in San Francisco de la Paz, Honduras. 

Heyli, a first-grader, is learning to read and write, and her mother said she was excited for the trip to the U.S. 

"My daughter left happy," said Heyli's mother. "She likes to travel a lot."
The rental home in San Francisco de la Paz where 6-year-old Heyli lived with her father and mother before setting out for the U.S. on May 15. 

"Here, you can't live normally," Claudia's mother said of the town. "You can't be out after 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7:00 p.m. ... because they assault you or they will kill you."

“My love, don't worry, you're going to come back.”

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Part of the criminal complaint filed against "Carlos." He pled guilty to illegally entering the U.S. on May 29, 2018.

“How much longer do I have to stay here?”

"It's very unjust, very unjust, what they're doing to the families from here, from Central America," said Heyli's mother, Claudia, 25.  "What they are doing with separating the kids, it's a cruel punishment, that's the right word, a very cruel punishment."
Six-year-old Heyli phones her mother weekly from the Arizona shelter where she is being held. 

On a recent call, Heyli was upset, her mother recounted. "She was very sad; she never thought that this was going to happen to her," said Heyli's mom, Claudia.

“I will need to look for psychological help.”

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