Hermelindo Che Coc was emotional as he reunited with his son, Jefferson, who was taken from him and held in a detention center for 46 days.
Che Coc and Jefferson were detained at the border in El Paso, Texas, before being seperated, while traveling to the United States from Guatemala. The two of them were seeking refuge from a crime-stricken area. Jefferson was held in a shelter called Cayuga Centers in New York.
For the first 25 days Che Coc was detained, he received no information on the whereabouts of his son.
Che Coc spoke to his son once he was released, and Jefferson said:
Papa, I thought they killed you. You separated from me. You don’t love me anymore?
Che Coc assured his son that he loved him and wasn't leaving him:
No, my son. I’m crying for you. I promise, soon you will be with me.
He was able to speak to his son just three times in almost two months after they were separated at the border.
Jefferson was the first child to reunite with his parent in the state of California. Donald Trump and his administration are scrambling to meet the court-ordered deadline to reunite almost 3,000 immigrant children with their families.
Someone caught the moving moment on video:
Tonight, Guatemalan asylum seeker Hermelindo Che Coc was reunited w/ his 6-yr-old son, Jefferson at LAX. The two were separated at the border, didn’t see each other nearly 2 months. The boy had a vacant look in his eyes. Also a cough, bruise on his eye & rashes all over his body. pic.twitter.com/322p9WiIBr— Esmeralda Bermudez 🦅 (@LATbermudez) July 15, 2018
Che Coc spent the night before cleaning, cooking, and buying him new clothes:
I want him to walk in here and know he’s home. I’m his papa and we’ll always be together.
He whipped up his son's favorite meal, chicken soup, and purchased some new sandals, a few outfits, and a blanket in hopes of cheering him up and making him feel welcomed and at home.
We spent the evening w/ Hermelindo as he prepared to see his son for the 1st time since they were separated at the border. The father was excited. He mopped the floors, cooked him chicken soup & bought him new clothes with money given to him by his father in law. pic.twitter.com/WdNf3cHOGW— Esmeralda Bermudez 🦅 (@LATbermudez) July 15, 2018
Jefferson has two younger siblings who are still in Guatemala with their mother. "He's the love of my life, my hero," the proud father said of his 6-year-old son.
Once morning came, Che Coc waited, cried, and prayed, counting the minutes until he could see his son:
Hermelindo waits at a lounge set up by the airline. Surrounded by first class luxury & fancy coffee table books all the father can think of is his son. He cried & prays & sets a timer to track the minutes. He sees a photo of an aircraft & asks if that’s how big his son’s plane is pic.twitter.com/CfitwWajsh— Esmeralda Bermudez 🦅 (@LATbermudez) July 15, 2018
Nancy and Guario, caseworkers in New York, assured Che Coc that his son was fine, being taken care of, and attending school. But after seeing the empty gaze in his son's eyes and seeing him so void of emotion, Che Coc insists that wasn't the case. Che Coc cried and gave his son a hug, which was met with a stiff body and a vacant stare.
Jefferson appeared to be traumatized and drained of emotions:
This is not how I gave them my son. My son has come back to me sick.
The moment Hermelindo & his son saw each other. Jefferson stopped down a corridor, several feet from his father. He stared at the floor. When he looked up, his eyes were vacant. He didn’t reach for Che Coc, didn’t lift his arms to hug him. “Papa,” Hermelindo cried. “Papa.” pic.twitter.com/EtcCl4Kq29— Esmeralda Bermudez 🦅 (@LATbermudez) July 15, 2018
People were both devastated and heartbroken:
People noticed the empty gaze and speculated Jefferson had endured severe emotional trauma during the separation, which would explain his behavior upon seeing his father. Some believe he will need professional help from a therapist to recover from his experience.
Jefferson's trauma seemed obvious to Twitter users:
That little boy's eyes are the eyes of trauma. So very sad and difficult to witness. We should be ashamed.— Joyful (@4HappyFeelings) July 16, 2018
😭😭😭😭 looks like he suffered deep deep trauma from the separation— Kat-punzel (@KattiePearl) July 17, 2018
Horrific and severe trauma. Read up on the effects of PTSD and reactive attachment disorder. This child ached for his parents for so long. When no parental comfort was coming, he shut down completely. He will need psychological help to recover.— El Cat 🌹 (@daimondog) July 17, 2018
People are horrified by what these children are going through:
How could our country do this? Having your child ripped away is like losing the best part of yourself.💔 I cannot stand trump— ❄❄Debbie❄❄ (@wishbear170) July 16, 2018