Update! If you like to help, Saturday’s Oakland event will be collecting donations to help this Bay Area Latin mother!
Sindy Ortiz Flores, 23, waited anxiously at San Francisco International Airport last night, her gaze fixed on the stream of arriving passengers. Then Ortiz let out a sigh — she had spotted her 18-month-old daughter, Grethshell Juliet.
As a woman carrying Grethshell from the plane handed her to her mother, the little girl began to wail. Ortiz also burst into tears, clutching her baby tight for the first time in more than a month.
U.S. Border Patrol agents took Grethshell from her father, Kevin Ventura Corrales, on Dec. 28, after arresting him and the baby near Calexico.
The government moved to prosecute Ventura for illegally re-entering the United States. Grethshell was turned over to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, which placed her in a shelter in Texas.
Government records say Grethshell’s family left Honduras on October 2018, fearing persecution if they returned.
Ortiz and her two older children got split up from her husband and Grethshell while in Mexico. Ortiz and the older kids made it to San Francisco, where relatives live. She said she is in the process of applying for asylum.
Ortiz said their separation had been extremely difficult.
“I felt desperate and helpless, not knowing what do do,” said Ortiz, as she waited for her baby at San Francisco International Airport. “I’ve been so nervous, wondering whether they were going to give her back to me or not.”
Ortiz said she spent long weeks calling government agencies, first trying to locate Grethshell and then struggling to get her back.
Lisa Castellanos, who works with the immigrant advocacy group Mijente, said the government initially demanded Ortiz pay $4,000 and provide a credit card number — neither of which Ortiz has — to cover the cost of her toddler’s travel. Castellanos said that after the case attracted media attention, officials agreed to deliver the toddler to her mother without charge.
The move comes seven months after President Donald Trump signed an executive order halting most family separations at the border, and a federal judge in San Diego ordered the administration to end family separations, except in cases when the parent is unfit or a danger to the child.