Immigrant Children Have Been Separated for So Long Some Don't Recognize Their Mothers

Immigrant families who were separated at the border as a part of President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policy have slowly been reunited after the president signed an executive order last month to end the practice.

But the joy of reunification has quickly faded for some mothers who've found their children no longer recognize them after being separated for months.

"He didn't recognize me," Mirce Alba Lopez told The New York Times after she was reunited with her son. "My joy turned temporarily into sadness."

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in April the Trump administration would implement increased security measures at the southern border that included separating families who tried to cross the border illegally. "If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border," he said.

Trump signed an executive order in June to end the separations after intense public backlash over the policy, but for many families, the damage of the separations has already been done.

For Milka Pablo, a mother who was separated from her 3-year-old daughter Darly, this was apparent as soon as they were reunited. "I want Miss, I want Miss," Darly said as she tried to escape her mother's hug and called for a social worker.

President Donald Trump crosses the South Lawn upon arrival at the White House on July 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. The First Family spent the weekend at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Images

Trump's rollback of family separations, an action he claimed for weeks he did not have the power to do, did not end the other enhanced security measures put in place on the southern border. "We're going to keep families together but we still have to maintain toughness or our country will be overrun by people, by crime, by all the things that we don't stand for and that we don't want," Trump said.

"I feel very strongly about it. I think anybody with a heart would feel very strongly about it. We don't like to see families separated. At the same time, we don't want people coming into our country illegally," he added of the policy.

Senior Health and Human Services Department official Chris Meekin told The Times the delay in reuniting families who have yet to see each other since the executive order is a result of "protecting children."

"If we had just reunited kids with adults, we would be putting them in the care of a rapist, a kidnapper; a child abuser and someone who was charged with murder in their home nation," he said.