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Road To Reunion: NY Attorney Bonds Out Detained Mother In Arizona, While Kids Are In NYC

Yeni Gonzalez-Garcia and attorney Jose Xavier Orochena
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Yeni Gonzalez-Garcia and attorney Jose Xavier Orochena Beth Fertig / WNYC

With at least 2,047 migrant children still separated from their parents, and a federal judge's order requiring them to be reunited with their families in 30 days, there's a major effort underway to bring them back together, despite formidable challenges. While only a handful have been brought back together so far, one New York immigration attorney is a step closer to making a reunion happen—Attorney Jose Xavier Orochena just posted bond for his client, a mother of three from Guatemala who has been detained in Arizona since May.

Orochena told WNYC's Beth Fertig last week that while his client, Yeni Gonzalez-Garcia, was in Arizona, her children, ages 6, 9, and 11, were sent to the Cayuga Center in East Harlem and have been here for four weeks. Orochena detailed how the kids are "not even part of a system. I called immigration court here in New York and I asked when are the children scheduled to go in front of an immigration judge. They told me that their system reflects that the children are still in Arizona."

Fleeing widespread gang violence in Guatemala, Gonzalez-Garcia and her children slipped into the U.S. across the border with Mexico, only to be detained in Texas and subsequently separated. Orochena credited the Cayuga Center for contacting the children's aunt in North Carolina, as well as arranging a call between the children and their mother.

Even though her son told her, "Mommy, we’re here. We’re OK, don’t worry," Gonzalez-Garcia said, "They are desperate. They want to be with me. My youngest daughter calls and says 'Mommy, I want to be with you, I don’t want to be here anymore.'"

Orochena was finally able to see the children on Wednesday and revealed they have been staying with a foster family and going to the Cayuga Center during the day.

Yesterday, Orochena, accompanied by WNYC's Beth Fertig and other reporters, headed to Arizona to post bond for Gonzalez-Garcia.

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Gonzalez-Garcia at J.C. Penney in Arizona, buying clothes and toiletries (Beth Fertig / WNYC)

According to Beth Fertig's report on Wednesday, "Orochena said Garcia-Gonzalez plans to pursue an asylum claim. But he's not sure if the kids can be released to her within the new court-ordered 30 days because there's so much red tape, including a thorough background check. He said it would probably be faster to release the children directly to their aunt in North Carolina, because she's already near the end of the same process to become a sponsor. The mother could then join the children and their aunt and wait in North Carolina for her asylum hearings."

For now, Gonzalez-Garcia will be on the road to New York—and, hopefully, her children.

Stay tuned for more: Follow Beth Fertig on Twitter; she gave an update on Friday afternoon (listen here) and her report will air on Tuesday.

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