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Zero Tolerance: One immigrant family's journey from separation to reunification

This is how disorganized the family separation process really was

Top government officials have struggled to explain how the policy of family separation came to be and what exactly went wrong, and they continued to flounder Tuesday as they were hauled before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It was only last week that the U.S. government reunited more than 1,800 families as part of a court-ordered July 26 deadline. But despite that deadline, more than 600 children are still detained in government-run shelters without their families, and more than 400 parents have been deported without an opportunity for reunification.


Ludy Orlando Garcia Escalante was one of the lucky ones. After 51 days of forced separation from his 7 year-old son, Osmin David, he was finally reunited and released late in the night on Tuesday, July 24th.

Father and son crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in late May, where they were shocked to discover the chaos and confusion wrought by the haphazard policy change.

Under past administrations, immigrants were typically either deported to their home countries or housed with their family in the U.S. as their immigration proceedings moved forward. But the Trump administration's new culture of “zero tolerance” not only increased criminal convictions for immigrants — it manufactured the high-profile separation crisis.

“Hug your son because you’re not going to see him anymore,” Ludy remembered an ICE officer telling him before the federal government sent Osmin to a shelter in Arizona. A few days later, Ludy was charged, convicted, and detained for illegal entry. Osmin, now at the shelter, was unable to contact his father for weeks.

In a powerful, 30-minute “Zero Tolerance" special episode, VICE News followed as Ludy, his family, and his attorney Joseph Veith fought to find and release Osmin. Moving from Texas to Alabama to Guatemala and back, the piece illustrates what it is like to endure months of separation, and explores the hypocrisy and ineffectiveness of the government agencies that created the catastrophe in the first place.

Watch Osmin and family finally reunite:

Cover image: Jika González/VICE News

This segment originally aired July 26, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.