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Video: Separated From Her Mother at the Border, a 6-Year-Old Has to Find Her Own Way

A Salvadoran woman becomes her family’s lifeline when her sister was taken to a detention facility in Texas and her niece to an Arizona shelter.

Earlier this week, millions of people were captivated by audiotape of an insistent six-year-old girl from El Salvador demanding that workers at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Facility call her aunt. While other children wept inconsolably, Alison Jimena Valencia Madrid recited the phone number her mother made her memorize on the raft ride across the Rio Grande.

Jimena was lucky. As the Trump administration backs away from its unpopular zero tolerance policy of separating migrant families, and orders the reunification of some 2,300 children with their families, the burden will be on those children to help identify their families and where they are.

We visited Jimena’s aunt in Houston and captured the moments when Jimena, now in an Arizona shelter, and then her mom, who is in a detention facility in Texas, called the aunt who’d become their lifeline.

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Portrait of Nadia Sussman

Nadia Sussman

Nadia Sussman is a video journalist at ProPublica.

Portrait of Ginger Thompson

Ginger Thompson

Ginger Thompson is a senior reporter.

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