Isidra Larena Calderon hugs her son Jonathan Leonardo after they were reunited in Guatemala City on Tuesday, August 7.
Nine Guatemalan children were reunited with their parents Tuesday, months after they had been separated at the US border as part of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.
The parents were among hundreds of migrants who had been deported without their children.
Getty Images photographer John Moore was there to capture the emotional scenes.
“I was concentrating on taking photos, in a really cramped space, so I couldn’t listen in on much of their conversations,” Moore said. “At one point I heard a father say ‘Perdoname’ (‘Forgive me’) to his son when they were reunited. He, like most parents, didn’t know they might be separated from their children after crossing the border into the US.”
The children flew to Guatemala City from New York, where some of them had been held since being separated from their parents. After being processed at the airport, they were taken to a local shelter where their parents were waiting. Moore called the reunions “bittersweet, at best.”
“There were tears of joy and relief, but also of anguish and regret,” he said.
These are the first nine children to be returned to their deported parents in Guatemala, according to the country’s social welfare ministry. In June, a federal judge ordered the US government to reunite all parents and children it had separated at the border.
Families wait to embrace their children for the first time in months.
Leo Jeancarlo de Leon, 6, plays with blocks while being processed at the airport in Guatemala City. He was later reunited with his mother, Lourdes. They spent almost three months apart.
A social worker holds the hand of one of the boys.
A man is overcome with emotion as he hugs his son. “Since media is not allowed to photograph moments of separation or children detained away from their parents, reunification pictures are complicated,” Moore said. “They tell a part of an urgent, important but ultimately incomplete story.”
A Guatemalan security agent awaits the children’s arrival.
There was a heavy media presence for the children’s return.
A teddy bear lies in a chair while the children wait to be processed at the airport in Guatemala City. The children were given snacks and toys to play with.
Parents embrace their son at the shelter in Guatemala City.
Filomena, 6, plays while she waits to be reunited with her father, who had been deported after they crossed the US-Mexico border.
Social workers write names on new backpacks for the children.
One of the boys uses his thumbprint to sign reception documents at the shelter.
Guatemalan first lady Patricia Marroquin kisses 10-year-old Abner Raul after he was reunited with his family. “A few months ago, the Guatemalan government received criticism on how it initially handled these separations, so this week it tried to show a more active and positive role in the reintegration of its citizens after deportation from the US,” Moore said.
John Moore is a Getty Images photographer based in New York. He has spent the past 10 years covering the immigration issue from both sides of the US-Mexico border. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter.
Photo editors: Brett Roegiers and Jennifer Kerrigan