ARIZONA NEWS

Volunteers, activists help Guatemalan mom reunite with kids

Jul 6, 2018, 4:30 AM
Janey Pearl Starks (left) and Yeni Gonzalez (right) in New York. (Photo courtesy of Janey Pearl Sta...
Janey Pearl Starks (left) and Yeni Gonzalez (right) in New York. (Photo courtesy of Janey Pearl Starks)
(Photo courtesy of Janey Pearl Starks)

A Guatemalan mom journeyed to New York from Arizona to reunite with her children after they were separated at the border – and she didn’t do it alone.

A team of volunteers and immigration activists made it possible for Yeni Gonzalez to reunite with her young children, ages 6, 9 and 11. They crossed the border together at the end of May and were taken to a detention facility in Yuma. They were separated two days later.

On Tuesday, after six weeks apart, Gonzalez was able to see her kids again. She visited them in New York at the Cayuga Center, the agency that temporarily placed her children in foster care.

“That day when they took them away from me I told them, ‘I promise I will fight for you and I will go find you,’” Gonzalez said. “Today I told them, ‘I promised I would come find you, and here I am.’”

Her journey to reunite with her children started when she was released on bond from the Eloy Detention Center last week. Supporters raised money to pay for her bond. She spent the next four days traveling to New York with the help of several volunteers who took turns driving her.

Janey Pearl Starks of Phoenix was one of the drivers. She received a text message a week ago, asking if she could pick up Gonzalez after she was released on bond.

“I was just going to help pick her up from Eloy and get her settled into the host family,” Starks said. “I originally was just going to help with that, but I ended up driving her from Arizona to Albuquerque, New Mexico.”

Feeling like she needed to do more, Starks flew to New York to help Gonzalez reunite with her kids. Though she wasn’t there when Gonzalez saw her kids again, Starks said she got to meet them later that day.

“They are just beautiful little kids,” she said. “You could tell they were happy that they were finally with their mom, but you can just see that they have the weight that children their age should not be having in their minds and in their hearts right now.”

That same day, Gonzalez was scheduled for a hearing at an immigration court in Eloy. Phoenix-based immigration attorney Juliana Manzanares stepped in to represent Gonzalez at that hearing.

“You have to show up or they can order you deported,” Manzanares said, stressing the importance of attending the hearing or having an attorney there representing the client.

“I was able to explain to the judge why she wasn’t present – because she was trying to reunite with her kids in New York,” she added.

Gonzalez still faces major obstacles to regain custody of her three children. She’s in the process of applying for asylum in the United States after fleeing violence in Guatemala. In the meantime, she’ll remain in New York and have supervised visits with her children.

Starks said Gonzalez’s supporters are turning their attention to help other mothers who’ve also been separated from their children. They’re trying to reunite one family at a time.

They’ve already been able to raise enough money to get two mothers released on bond from the Eloy Detention Center and are working to reunite them with their kids in New York and Florida.

“A lot of people doing small things will really make a difference, and that’s what made a difference for her,” Starks said, referring to Gonzalez.

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Facebook Photo/City Government of Chandler, Arizona)...
KTAR.com

Chandler City Council approves policy to prohibit acts of discrimination

The Chandler City Council voted 6-1 to adopt an ordinance that prohibits discrimination during Monday’s meeting.
1 day ago
(Photo by Mike Simons/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

Execution warrant requested for Arizona death row inmate

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has requested the state Supreme Court issue a warrant of execution for death row inmate Aaron Gunches.
1 day ago
(Facebook Photo/Angel Zamora)...
KTAR.com

2 Phoenix police officers charged with assault in October incident with shooting suspect

Charges against two Phoenix police officers accused of assaulting a shooting suspect during an October arrest have been submitted to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.
1 day ago
(Screenshot via Glendale Police Department)...
KTAR.com

Glendale police said officer who activated Taser on shoplifting suspect 14 times followed policy

Glendale police said an officer who activated a Taser 14 times on a shoplifting suspect Tuesday acted within department policy.
1 day ago
(Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Photo/Andrew Pielage)...
KTAR.com

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West in Scottsdale to host 1st holiday experience

The Scottsdale winter home and studio of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright will host two weekends of holiday-themed activities open to the public for the first time.
1 day ago
Teofilo Acuna Gutierrez (Photo courtesy of DPS)...
KTAR.com

Silver Alert canceled for 78-year-old man last seen in Phoenix

A Silver Alert was canceled Wednesday evening in Phoenix for a 78-year-old man who hasn't been spotted since Friday.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Volunteers, activists help Guatemalan mom reunite with kids