The father of the girl who is pictured crying on the cover of this week’s Time magazine says the Honduran foreign ministry told him that his daughter is detained with her mother in McAllen, Texas, and the two have not been separated.
Denis Varela says he hasn’t heard from his wife or daughter in almost three weeks. The girl’s mother apparently took their daughter to the United States without telling him.
Varela, a dockworker who lives in Puerto Cortes, Honduras, said that the ministry had given him the girl’s detainee identification number. He was told his daughter was in McAllen with her mother, but nothing else.
“The first second I saw it, I knew it was my daughter,” Varela told The Washington Post. “Immediately, I recognized her.”
The girl’s photo was apparently taken when she and her mother were first detained by Border Patrol officers and the mother was being searched. Border Patrol agent Carlos Ruiz told CBS News the child’s mother, Sandra Sanchez, to put down her daughter, nearly 2-year-old Yanela, so they could search her. The girl began crying, but once agents were done, she picked up her daughter and she stopped crying.
“I personally went up to the mother and asked her, ‘Are you doing okay? Is the kid okay?’ and she said, ‘Yes. She’s tired and thirsty. It’s 11 o’clock at night,” Ruiz told CBS News.
Ruiz said he’s aware the image had been used to symbolize a policy, but he said “that was not the case in this picture.”
Time has since issued a correction.
“The original version of this story misstated what happened to the girl in the photo after she [was] taken from the scene. The girl was not carried away screaming by U.S. Border Patrol agents; her mother picked her up and the two were taken away together.”
The girl’s father says despite the mistake in his family’s case, he still believes there are “human rights violations” taking place at the border.
“This is the case for my daughter, but it is not the case for 2,000 children that were separated from their parents,” Varela told the Washington Post.