Lily Macias, outside of the Women's Building where she helps connect families with children who crossed the border. She said the pandemic has been especially tough, as many people have lost their jobs and are unable to hire an attorney to assist them in reuniting with minors. Photo by Clara-Sophia Daly.

Lily Macia opened the door of the Women’s Building to say goodbye to a mother and father who had finished their fingerprinting appointment, a process required for sponsors to reunite with minors who have crossed the border. 

Many of the sponsors Macia works with have been successfully reunited with the minors, but one particularly challenging story was of a Guatemalan mother who was never able to reunite with her daughter. 

The mother was 52 years old, and came from Guatemala with very little money a month before her children. She came to the Women’s Building to fill out the sponsorship paperwork to reunite with her six-year-old daughter and 16-year old son. Working to escape gang violence in her home country, she had sacrificed almost all her money to pay for the dangerous passage across the border for her family, with the hope of creating a better life in the United States.

“Unfortunately, her daughter did end up passing along the way before she arrived in the United States. So that was very traumatic,” said Macia.  

The program Macia works at is known as a Safe Release Support site, and her fingerprint team is one out of 20 nationwide programs funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. To release the minors to the sponsor, the program has to verify they will be going into a stable home. 

Although Macia was able to connect the Guatemalan mother with a church who offered some support, it was not enough. The woman ended up taking public transportation to Arizona, and then to Texas, where she had family to offer her support.

“To actually experience that with someone face-to-face in this process was extremely triggering,” said Macia, whose team sees some 40 clients a week.

“She was so determined,” said Macia, who never found out if the mother managed to reconnect with her son. 

Macias with a client at the Women’s Building. Photo courtesy of Lily Macias.

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Clara-Sophia Daly is a multimedia storyteller and reporter who has worked both in print and audio. A graduate of Skidmore College where she studied International Affairs and Media/Film studies, she enjoys working at the intersection of art and politics, and focusing on the stories of individuals to reveal larger themes.

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