Brenda Ramirez-Garcia embraced her son before getting down on her knees to speak with the 7-year-old taken from her more than a month ago after they illegally crossed the border in Arizona.
"It seems like you gained a little weight," she said Friday, keeping her hands on the boy the whole time.
"How are you, my love?"
The emotional encounter occurred at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, DC -- the latest in a trickle of reunifications since President Donald Trump signed an order to keep families together while maintaining a "zero tolerance" policy toward illegal entry prosecutions.
More than 2,000 children separated from their parents at the southern border remain in government custody.
The order led federal prosecutors to announce they would not pursue charges of illegally entering the US in cases involving families that could not be housed together.
Ramirez-Garcia and her son Kevin were separated on May 27 -- one day after illegally crossing the border into Arizona following a long journey from their native El Salvador, according to immigration lawyers. He was transferred to a shelter in south Florida, where Ramirez-Garcia said she managed to speak with him by phone only once from a Colorado detention center.
Immigration lawyers said they plan to consolidate their asylum cases. For now, mother and son will stay with relatives in Maryland.
"Why are you so tan?" Ramirez-Garcia asked Kevin at the airport. "Did you go to the beach."
"No, they took us out to play," he said.
Kevin was soon surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins.
Ramirez-Garcia and other parents separated from their children at the southern border have said the experience has left lasting emotional and psychological scars.
"It's been agonizing," Ramirez-Garcia told CNN. "There are many women still in detention who know nothing about their children."
A federal judge in California late Tuesday ordered a halt to most family separations at the US border and the reunification of all families that have been separated, in the first major rebuke to the Trump administration during ongoing furor over family separations at the border.
A growing chorus of activists and attorneys have accused the Trump administration of taking too long to reunite immigrant families.
Only a handful of children have been released from custody since Trump signed his executive order, according to the latest available statistics.