STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

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 4:37 AM
Updated: Jul 3, 2018 5:05 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.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 501097

Reported Deaths: 9990
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34338538
DeSoto32117403
Hinds31939628
Jackson24494382
Rankin21995390
Lee15543235
Madison14581280
Jones13851242
Forrest13453251
Lauderdale11991317
Lowndes11050188
Lamar10521135
Pearl River9533237
Lafayette8550140
Hancock7732127
Washington7438158
Oktibbeha7146131
Monroe6777177
Warren6694176
Pontotoc6664102
Neshoba6637206
Panola6531131
Marshall6467134
Bolivar6317148
Union602894
Pike5820152
Alcorn5669101
Lincoln5436135
George496879
Scott472898
Tippah469281
Prentiss467281
Leflore4658144
Itawamba4636105
Tate4588111
Adams4587119
Copiah448592
Simpson4446116
Yazoo444187
Wayne439772
Covington428894
Sunflower4239105
Marion4226108
Coahoma4160105
Leake408288
Newton381779
Grenada3707108
Stone360364
Tishomingo359792
Attala331589
Jasper329965
Winston314291
Clay308076
Chickasaw300367
Clarke292494
Calhoun279446
Holmes267987
Smith264050
Yalobusha234047
Tallahatchie228051
Greene219348
Walthall218763
Lawrence212940
Perry205556
Amite205156
Webster202946
Noxubee186740
Montgomery179656
Jefferson Davis171743
Carroll169138
Tunica159839
Benton148838
Kemper141941
Choctaw133426
Claiborne132737
Humphreys129538
Franklin120228
Quitman106428
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson94534
Sharkey64120
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 820011

Reported Deaths: 15407
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1148361924
Mobile726091339
Madison52337697
Shelby37622350
Baldwin37258552
Tuscaloosa35117612
Montgomery34116740
Lee23536246
Calhoun22232488
Morgan20952378
Etowah19834500
Marshall18372304
Houston17390412
St. Clair16064339
Cullman15454293
Limestone15349199
Elmore15264286
Lauderdale14314295
Talladega13842283
DeKalb12662261
Walker11206370
Blount10197176
Autauga10047148
Jackson9874184
Coffee9211191
Dale8900185
Colbert8871201
Tallapoosa7089198
Escambia6775134
Covington6713183
Chilton6645162
Russell637059
Franklin5962105
Chambers5610142
Marion5007127
Dallas4975200
Pike4796106
Clarke475784
Geneva4574127
Winston4519103
Lawrence4324117
Bibb425286
Barbour357876
Marengo338390
Monroe331564
Randolph329764
Butler326496
Pickens316384
Henry312766
Hale311688
Cherokee302860
Fayette294180
Washington251651
Cleburne247760
Crenshaw245275
Clay243368
Macon234863
Lamar224447
Conecuh186253
Coosa180240
Lowndes175364
Wilcox168939
Bullock151744
Perry138840
Sumter133238
Greene126744
Choctaw88527
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 66°
Columbus
Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 62°
Oxford
Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 66°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 61°
Clear cool and dry to begin your weekend, but both afternoons should be a little bit above what we expect for this time of year temperature wise. Rain chances begin to return late Sunday night, with at least two chances for storms over the next week, summer could be strong.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather