The Calexico Port of Entry in Calexico, CA. For illustrative purposes.
Photo: Gregory Bull (AP/File)

They’ve already experienced one of the cruelest aspects of the Trump administration’s barbaric family separation policy. Now, they’ve returned voluntarily to that same draconian immigration system to seek asylum again and to be reunited with their children.

These 29 migrant parents from Central America who were stripped of their children by the Trump administration and then deported without them will eventually be viewed as heroes testing the system, standing up to the administration’s abusive immigration policies, and fighting for their children and the human right to seek asylum and live in peace.

They are among an estimated 430 parents who were deported without their children, The Washington Post reported, citing the Department of Health and Human Services. Of those, about 200 are still separated from their children, who remain in the U.S. in shelters, with foster families, or with relatives. In some cases, migrants say they were tricked by U.S. authorities into signing voluntary deportation papers, unaware that they’d be sent back to their home countries without their children. Other times, they faced the difficult choice of whether or not to leave their kids in the U.S. where they might have a better chance of remaining safe.

On Saturday, those parents, from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, returned to the U.S.-Mexico border—after having been deported once—to seek asylum again. Some had reunited in Guatemala City before crossing into Mexico on a humanitarian visa and then flying to Tijuana, where they stayed in a hotel, aided by the legal advocacy organization Al Otro Lado, according to the Post.

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After hours of negotiations between U.S. border officials and immigration attorneys in Mexicali, Mexico, they were allowed to cross to the U.S. side of the border at Calexico and begin their asylum processes. What happens from here remains to be seen.

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“Mainly this group of lawyers called Al Otro Lado went searching for people like Elmer [a deportee from Honduras]. They went to Guatemala and Honduras and they found 29 different families. They have brought all of them up here to the U.S.-Mexico border with the mission of reuniting them with their children in the U.S.,” journalist James Frederick, who has been following Elmer’s journey, told NPR.

Frederick noted that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials didn’t make it easy for the parents to be admitted into the system, making them wait for hours while other commuters crossed the border, stalling, and requesting multiple documents repeatedly.

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“But then, all of the sudden, that changed,” Frederick said. CBP eventually allowed the 29 families into the U.S.

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Describing the scene just before the parents crossed back into the U.S., Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director of the Immigrant Defenders Law Center, told the Post, “They’re standing right at the border, preparing to reenter a system that traumatized their families months earlier.”

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“It says a lot about what they’re fleeing, and what they lost,” Toczylowski added.

Read more about the families’ journey here.