By Marco Poggio and Janon Fisher
They made the long, hard journey north to the United States to escape the violence in their countries — only to be separated from their sons at the border.
On Wednesday, after months of searching, two Central American men were reunited with their boys in Morningside Heights, about 3000 miles from home.
“It has been 55 days without seeing him,” Javier Garrido Martinez, 30, who traveled from Honduras, said. “But I thank God for letting me be together again with my child.” He would not give his last name.
“From now on, I swear I’ll never be separated from him, no matter what,” the heartsick father said. “These were the most painful days of my life. Minutes were like days. Days were like months. I would never imagine that this would happen to me, that they would separate me from my child.”
Garrido Martinez said that he left Honduras where violence and poverty are the norm.
“I was scared that something might happen to my child,” he said.
The two crossed into the U.S. at the Laredo, Tex., border bridge where they were both taken into custody. The father was released, but the boy was taken to New York.
“I never imagined they would separate me. When I came in, they took my information and they told me that the President changed a couple of laws and that the kids would be separated,” he said.
It took 10 frantic days to find out he was being kept in the city.
“They gave me a phone number, but it was given to me wrong,” he said. “I tried to call but no one answered.” He said family members were able to search for the proper number online and locate the boy.
“An official told me that someone might have adopted my child, and that I wouldn’t be able to see him again,” Garrido Martinez said, choking back tears.
Finally, he made the trek to the Big Apple, where Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services kept the boy safe and cared for until the father arrived.
“It was the best day of my life,” he said of the moment he was able to hug his son again.
Adan Garcia, 26, of Guatemala, spent 58 days looking for his 4-year-old boy. They crossed in San Luis, Ariz.
“I came for necessity, to give my son a better life,” he said. “It’s not right that they separate us. There are still many more that are not together with their children.”
Garcia seemed worn out by the journey, but glad to see his son. They shared a bag of Doritos.
“I’m very happy to see him again,” he said.
Both families seemed relieved to be together again. Garrido Martinez hoped his son was too young to understand what happened.
Neither man appeared to enjoy the spotlight and were eager to move on with their lives.
“We have together been working with both of these families,” said Mario Russell, director of Catholic Charities New York’s Immigrant & Refugee Services Division. “And I can tell you by having spent the day today and yesterday as well with them, they’re tired. But I think they’re deeply deeply satisfied, but at the same time anxious and eager to move on to the next phase of their journey.”