Friendship Park, along the United States-Mexico border in San Diego–Tijuana
By Lisa Votino Tarrant (Southampton)
Down in Tijuana, I befriended a 5yo little girl whose family was awaiting turning themselves over to US authorities to claim asylum. All I kept thinking was how much her and Lily would be besties. Her parents and little brother slowly grew to trust me. Me and my buddy played for hours. I waited with them every morning to see if their number was called. I was both happy and sad when it wasn’t. When my little buddy saw me she ran and hugged me as tight as she could. She was mischievous and probably one of the cutest kids I have ever seen.
Then one day their number was called. My little buddy was inconsolable and honestly if I didn’t have to convince her that this was good, I would have been a mess. I finally calmed her down and told her I needed to draw a picture on her back so she could remember me. What I was actually doing was writing her parents info and phone numbers as well as their contact in the US. She asked if I could draw a heart on her hand, so I did. And then she jumped in my arms and in English whispered in my ear “I love you Lisa.” Until that moment I had no idea she spoke any english and turned to look at her mom and saw tears in her eyes. I knew she taught her how to say it to me and we will share a bond for the rest of our lives because of that one beautiful moment. I stayed with them until they were loaded into the van to be taken away. My buddy held my hand through the fence until she had to be loaded in. Her mom ran over and asked if I would find my little buddy and help her if her and her husband are deported. All I could say was I would do my best and I loved them.
ICE has a locator website. I have the entire families’ info. You cannot look up minors under 18. I have yet to find the mother or father. As of tonight, I have no way to know where they are, if they are together or separated or how any of them are doing. It keeps me up at night. When I watch Lily fall asleep, I imagine my little buddy’s mama doing the same. We are both mothers that love our children. We both want our children to be happy and safe. I have to imagine it, because thinking of it being any other way has left me vomiting. I hope one day I find them and my little buddy and Lily can have a beach day or a city trip or anything as long as they are happy and safe.