BREAKING NEWS Butte County Sheriff's Office confirms man hit by train was killed Full Story
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 3:05 AM
Updated: Jul 3, 2018 3:05 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.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3074812

Reported Deaths: 35060
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles103873814416
San Bernardino2569141560
Riverside2510002676
San Diego2185552174
Orange2165092508
Santa Clara949051129
Kern87240572
Fresno83200968
Sacramento811831128
Alameda68649788
Ventura62774462
San Joaquin58843788
Contra Costa53349460
Stanislaus43121766
Tulare42186515
Monterey36464255
San Mateo32887309
San Francisco29502266
Solano25983107
Santa Barbara25405243
Imperial25333474
Merced24570316
Sonoma24184242
Kings19588148
Placer17490184
San Luis Obispo16056140
Madera13528151
Santa Cruz12461113
Marin11732159
Yolo10789138
Shasta9750123
Butte9528128
El Dorado788649
Sutter782879
Napa767244
Lassen519916
San Benito500346
Yuba499627
Tehama433244
Tuolumne340340
Nevada323474
Mendocino319232
Amador302431
Lake262531
Humboldt242725
Glenn194820
Colusa17969
Calaveras162123
Siskiyou145713
Mono11244
Inyo98329
Del Norte8672
Plumas5895
Modoc3853
Mariposa3464
Trinity3044
Sierra820
Alpine730
Unassigned00
Chico
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 36°
Oroville
Clear
40° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 40°
Chico
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 36°
Red Bluff
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 17°
Feels Like: 30°
Red Bluff
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 30°
Chico
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 36°
We'll be staying dry today, but clouds will be increasing. Temperatures will be cooler today. We'll have even cooler temperatures, rain, and snow on the way in your Friday forecast. Heavier rain and snow are projected late this weekend and next week.
KHSL Severe
KHSL Radar
KHSL Temperatures

Community Events