A Brazilian mother and her 10-year-old son, who were separated as part of the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy on illegal migration, were reunited on Thursday in Chicago.
Sirley Silveira Paixao arrived to Chicago to pick up her son after a judge ordered that the boy be released to her care, her attorney, Britt Miller, said.
The mother and son were all smiles as they walked up to a tangle of microphones to address reporters. Paixao leaned over and kissed her son on the cheek.
Through a translator, Paixao said in a press conference following the reunion that she was "extremely happy."
Paixao said she was looking forward to taking her son to Massachusetts, where she has been living with family friends, getting him enrolled in school and getting herself a job.
She said she wants to "just live a happy life," she said, "and just forget that all of this ever happened."
"It just feels like a burden is off my shoulders," Paixao added. "Because all that was missing was him. Without him my life was incomplete."
She said it was "extremely difficult" being separated from her son, and that she had trouble sleeping and eating.
Her son, Diego, said he felt "relieved." While in Chicago he said he played soccer and watched the World Cup.
But tonight? He's craving McDonalds, his mom said, laughing.
Asked by reporters if she had any advice for other migrant parents who are fighting to be reunited with their children, Paixao encouraged them to "look for an attorney" and "seek your rights."
"Because it is possible for them to be released," she said.
Paixao arrived in the United States and passed an initial screening determining that she had a credible fear of persecution in her native country and was in need of asylum, her attorneys said in a press conference earlier in the day. Still, she was taken into custody for allegedly making an illegal entry, and separated from her son.
Attorney Jesse Bless said Paixao pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for either attempting to enter the country unlawfully or entering the country unlawfully.
Paixao was released from custody days later, but did not receive accurate instructions on how to reunite with her son, the attorneys said. She eventually learned that her son was in Chicago from another Brazilian mother, Piaxao said.
The attorneys, Bless and Miller, filed a complaint on July 2 seeking the release of her son into her care, and the judge granted her request on Thursday, the attorneys said.
"It is our hope that today's ruling offers comfort and inspiration to other parents and children who likewise have been separated as they pursue a better life in this country," Bless and Miller said in a joint statement.
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