Crying 10-Year-Old Who Approached Border Agent in Viral Video Has Been Reunited with His Mom: Reports
The boy's relatives told The Washington Post that he was alone because he had been kidnapped then released by his captors after earlier being deported
The crying 10-year-old Nicaraguan boy recorded on viral video pleading for help from border patrol earlier this year has been reunited with his mom, according to advocates and local news outlets.
TV station KVEO reports that the two reconnected at an emergency shelter in San Benito, Texas, on May 28.
The boy was reunited with his mother at La Posada Providencia. A Facebook post from the shelter shows a photo of the two together again.
"Prayers answered! All of us at La Posada Providencia, along with camera crew and media from various news sources waited eagerly as Meylin and her son ... were reunited today at La Posada," the caption of the photos read, along with a photo of the boy and his mom, Meylin.
"After nearly two months of separation, we are so happy that they are together again, and wish them well on their resettlement journey."
The story of the boy has continued to unfold since he was first found at the border on April 1, in a now widely-shared interaction caught on camera by a Rio Grande border patrol agent.
The video shows the distraught boy crying to law enforcement and explaining that he had woken up to realize that the group with whom he was traveling had left him behind and alone.
"I came looking because I didn't know where to go, and they can also rob or kidnap me or something," he tells the officer in the video.
For many, the video helped put a human face on what has been a much debated and very complicated issue: the drastic increase in unaccompanied children at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In a recent interview, relatives told The Washington Post that the boy and his mother had attempted to cross the southern border in March but were deported under Title 42, a Trump-era policy that allows Customs and Border Protection to expel migrants entering illegally to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in holding facilities.
While President Joe Biden has undone many of his predecessor's immigration policies, the administration continues to adhere to Title 42 — albeit with a key change: unaccompanied children are now allowed into the country, where they are kept in border detention facilities until they are transferred to a facility managed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
After mother and son were deported, relatives told the Post they were kidnapped in Mexico and held for a $10,000 ransom.
Misael Obregón, the boy's uncle, said he gave the captors $5,000, after which the boy was released but his mother remained with kidnappers. (She was released weeks later, according to an interview she gave to Univision, and has reportedly been granted asylum in the U.S.)
After the boy was released by the smugglers, he found himself abandoned, wandering through South Texas until he reached the Border Patrol agent who recorded the interaction.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection previously told PEOPLE that the child had been transported "to a Border Patrol facility where he was fed and medically screened," and would be "safely transferred to the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement."
Asked if the boy had been taken out of U.S. custody, the Department of Health and Human Services said, "We do not comment on specific children. We are working with other partner agencies to safely receive, shelter, and transfer unaccompanied children who make the dangerous journey to the U.S. southwest border."
As immigration activists previously described to PEOPLE, border detention facilities are akin to holding cell and are legally meant to detain children for no longer than 72 hours. Because of the sheer number of children who were held this year, however, many were staying in such facilities for much longer before making their way to a shelter managed by ORR.
After being processed by Border Patrol, unaccompanied children are transferred to Health and Human Services until they can be released to a sponsor (typically a parent or other close relative).
The Havana Times reported that Lazaro Gutierez, the boy's father, previously sought to have him returned to Nicaragua, filing a formal request that the boy be repatriated. But the boy's uncle has since said on his YouTube channel that custody was given to Meylin.
Asked about the boy, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a news conference last month: "What I can convey is, for any of us who have seen that video, it is heartbreaking."