Mother and daughter reunited after 61 days

After fleeing gang violence in Guatemala, Buena Ventura Martin-Godinez is seeing her daughter for the first time in 61 days.

Posted: Jul 3, 2018 5:51 AM
Updated: Jul 3, 2018 6:05 AM

The 7-year-old girl had been apart from her family, alone in detention, for nearly 2 months.

On Sunday, she and her mother were tearfully reunited at Miami-Dade airport.

Busy passengers at baggage claim were oblivious to the emotional story playing out in front of them as Buena Ventura Martin-Godinez, 29, embraced her daughter for the first time since she left her behind at home in Guatemala, 61 days ago.

Martin-Godinez has been staying with family in Miami after she crossed the US border with her son and claimed asylum on May 1.

Her husband crossed with their daughter, Janne Idali Godinez Martin, shortly afterward, on May 8. They didn't know that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had announced, the day before, that all adults crossing the border illegally would be charged with federal crimes -- a zero tolerance policy that would force parents to be separated from their children.

Martin-Godinez's husband was detained in Atlanta; Janne was detained and taken to Michigan.

During that time, Janne became sick. Even though Martin-Godinez is a nurse in Guatemala, she was powerless to help her daughter as she complained of headaches and pain from 1,300 miles away.

On Sunday, Janne clutched a stuffed animal as her mother wiped away her tears.

"She is asking to never be separated from her mother again," Martin-Godinez says, translating into Spanish what her daughter said in her native Mam.

The mother's message to other mothers: if you're thinking of claiming asylum here, find another country. "The laws here are harsh. And people don't have hearts," she said.

"People dream of coming here, to save their lives, but I don't what them to experience what I've gone through," she said.

Escaping the threat of violence at home

As a nurse in her hometown of Huehuetenango, Martin-Godinez made a good salary, and her husband, Pedro Godinez Aguilar, had started a business. But that brought constant demands from gangs in the area. Pay up -- or face violence. "We were threatened by people, that if we didn't pay them they were going to kill us, or our kids," she said.

So she and her and husband agreed that she would leave with her 10-month-old son, Pedro, on May 1, and he would join with their daughter after the school year finished.

She took a bus to Arizona from her town on the Mexico-Guatemala border, and claimed asylum. She and her son were taken into detention for a week before being released. She made her way from Arizona to Miami to meet her brother-in-law. There she awaits her court appearances and check-ins with immigration.

But once Martin-Godinez arrived in the United States, people back in Guatemala got word, and, she says, the threats to her husband got worse. He decided to leave Huehuetenango immediately, not even telling his wife he was leaving early. "I just called and they told me he had come. And that's all I knew," Martin-Godinez said.

Painful weeks apart

It was in Miami that Martin-Godinez got the first call from her daughter. "She was asking why was she there, why was she separated. Why can't she see her mom, dad and brother," she said.

Martin-Godinez had no idea where Michigan is in relation to Miami, but she knew it was far away.

"My daughter called me ... telling me for days that she had a strong fever, a lot of tooth pain," the mother recalled.

"Since my daughter doesn't speak English, and where she is they only speak English -- I left the social worker messages because she speaks Spanish. I would tell her my daughter is sick, I begged them to see my daughter but they didn't pay attention to me," she said.

What her mother suspected was eventually confirmed -- Janne had an infected molar.

If she could have spoken to her daughter during those dark times, her message would have been simple, she said.

"I love you, I'm so sorry for what's happening and will work hard to fix it."

But on Sunday, at Miami-Dade International Airport, both Janne and her mother had big smiles on their faces. As they stepped out of the airport, Martin-Gidonez's relief was palpable. Their plan to celebrate? Go home together. And have some pizza.

For now, it is a big win in a bigger fight for their family to be reunified.

"I feel happy that my daughter is with me," said Martin-Godinez. "But on the other hand, sad because my husband is still in jail and they told him they are going to deport him to Guatemala," she said.

"We ran away looking for a life here," she says -- and if he goes back, his life will be in danger.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 578494

Reported Deaths: 9202
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion798821282
Lake43601664
Allen31380537
Hamilton27675303
St. Joseph26409369
Elkhart23873336
Vanderburgh18192211
Tippecanoe16999116
Porter14183158
Johnson14120277
Hendricks13560236
Madison10312209
Vigo10297171
Clark9952128
Monroe8933105
Delaware8638129
LaPorte8589153
Kosciusko777375
Howard7712136
Warrick624990
Hancock621995
Bartholomew616094
Floyd5971105
Wayne5811155
Grant5716108
Dubois533570
Boone523167
Morgan501485
Marshall487084
Henry483262
Cass464959
Noble453956
Dearborn443343
Jackson410145
Shelby394376
Lawrence374172
Clinton359838
Gibson348556
DeKalb333063
Montgomery329150
Knox323339
Harrison317242
Miami305043
Steuben300740
Adams291635
Ripley287145
Wabash286345
Whitley286324
Huntington278757
Putnam278046
Jasper274933
White262038
Daviess255671
Jefferson242738
Fayette239248
Decatur237382
Greene229259
Posey225626
Wells225146
LaGrange222061
Scott212837
Clay212432
Randolph204940
Jennings188635
Sullivan185831
Spencer176917
Fountain175125
Washington170216
Starke169241
Jay160521
Fulton156829
Owen155536
Carroll150115
Orange146333
Rush145618
Vermillion141633
Perry141327
Franklin139333
Parke12718
Tipton126232
Pike111325
Blackford105122
Pulaski93636
Newton87820
Brown84428
Benton83010
Crawford7229
Martin68013
Warren6427
Switzerland6035
Union6033
Ohio4547
Unassigned0372

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 807293

Reported Deaths: 9990
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin95508704
Cuyahoga80262964
Hamilton59783436
Montgomery40858396
Summit32488697
Lucas29495575
Butler29100225
Stark24048388
Warren18471135
Lorain17563207
Mahoning16430334
Lake14941134
Clermont14703103
Delaware1349574
Licking12353132
Trumbull12096297
Fairfield1184280
Greene11338132
Medina10815164
Clark10334261
Wood9742153
Allen9355126
Miami867373
Portage8628104
Richland8604111
Marion7231112
Tuscarawas6987172
Columbiana6922124
Pickaway689050
Wayne6599162
Muskingum648939
Erie5729117
Hancock529088
Ross518287
Scioto508753
Geauga469955
Darke450589
Ashtabula431467
Union422327
Mercer419485
Lawrence417051
Sandusky413262
Auglaize407059
Shelby404621
Seneca404354
Huron399738
Jefferson391565
Belmont378140
Putnam359370
Washington357039
Athens35469
Madison331128
Knox329022
Ashland322538
Fulton319043
Defiance311476
Crawford306769
Preble306434
Brown289617
Logan284828
Ottawa275534
Clinton272741
Williams265757
Highland255618
Jackson250743
Guernsey234625
Champaign233727
Fayette218929
Morrow21754
Holmes215562
Perry215317
Henry206147
Hardin200932
Coshocton194517
Van Wert193744
Wyandot186948
Gallia186226
Adams160815
Pike160116
Hocking157423
Carroll143216
Paulding137521
Noble116138
Meigs99021
Monroe93827
Harrison8428
Morgan75826
Vinton64013
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 19°
Angola
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 27°
Huntington
Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 26°
Fort Wayne
Mostly Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 19°
Lima
Partly Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 40° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 23°
Cloudy Saturday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events