In 2017, Bryan and his mother were separated at the U.S. Mexico border under the Trump-era zero-tolerance policy. The two had come to the U.S. to seek asylum after cartels in Mexico kidnapped and murdered Bryan’s dad and uncle and demanded Bryan join their gang. Despite their strong case for asylum, the Trump Administration’s hostile immigration rules at the time allowed for the unjust deportation of Bryan’s mother, forcing her to endure three harrowing years of survival evading the violent groups that were after her. Bryan was 15 at the time of the separation.

"It's just a really cruel experience that I just hope no one has to go through."


Bryan holds onto his mother after being reunited on May 4th, 2021. 

Bryan was sent to a shelter where he came in contact with ImmDef’s Detained Youth Empowerment team.  Eventually Bryan was reunited with his brother where he finally learned that his mother had been deported. Though Bryan faced great obstacles, he was inspired by his mother and invested great efforts in his schooling, graduating a year early and becoming fluent in English in less than three years. Thanks to ImmDef’s Children’s Representation Project, Bryan has won asylum and now has a green card.

“It was ... hard to grow up without a mom. When I graduated, she wasn’t there, and on my birthday she wasn’t there."

Finally on May 4th, 2021, Bryan was reunited with his mother in an emotional reunion caught by The Today Show, MSNBC, Telemundo, and Good Morning America. Bryan was the first child to be reunited under the Biden Task Force for separated families. Bryan bravely used his voice and experience to speak with media and advocate for separated families.  In each interview Bryan advocated for the Biden administration to reunite families as quicky as possible and to provide mental health support and social services needed so that families can move on from this painful chapter of their lives. Despite all the trauma that the immigration system caused for him and his family, Bryan joined ImmDef’s Detained Youth Empowerment team and currently works at government shelters providing Know Your Rights trainings and screenings for unaccompanied youth like him.

Bryan’s story is one of many, and unfortunately, not all of them have had similar outcomes. As of June 8, 2021, DHS does not know whether 2,100+ children are still separated from their families. The treatment families received during the Trump Administration was so inhumane and inconsiderate, paper trails and documentation on separated families are vague or nonexistent. There is still much work to be done, but we are so proud to have Bryan join us in defending our immigrant communities.  

To learn more about ways to join ImmDef on its mission to support immigrant communities against systemic injustice in the legal system, click here.