Crying Honduran Girl on the Cover of Time Magazine Was Not Separated From Mother, Father Says

June 22, 2018, 3:39 PM UTC

The Honduran toddler pictured sobbing in her pink jacket has become the heartbreaking symbol of family separation at the border since the onset of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy.

However, a man who says he is the father of the girl told the Washington Post Thursday night that the girl and her mother were actually not separated.

Award-winning Getty Images photographer John Moore captured the image of the girl crying as the border agent patted down her mother, and the photo quickly propagated across international newspapers and fundraising pages.

On Thursday, Time magazine released its July 2 cover, which depicts the image of the little girl without her mother alongside a towering Donald Trump. (Time, like Fortune, is published by the Meredith Corporation.)

While many have speculated that the toddler represented one of more than 2,300 migrant children split from their parents since May 5, the girl’s father, Denis Javier Varela Hernandez in Honduras, said that the mother and daughter were not separated.

Border Patrol Agents Detain Migrants Near US-Mexico Border
A Honduran mother holds her two-year-old as U.S. Border Patrol as agents review their papers near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas.John Moore—Getty Images
John Moore—Getty Images

According to Varela, 32-year-old Sandra Sanchez was detained with her nearly 2-year-old daughter, Yanela, at a facility in McAllen, Texas. Both Honduran deputy foreign minister, Nelly Jerez, and a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that the mother and daughter had not been separated.

In a statement to the Washington Post on Friday, a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed that the U.S. Border Patrol arrested Sanchez on June 12 near Hildalgo, Texas. Five days later, she was transferred to ICE custody and is currently housed—with her daughter—at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.

Sanchez—with Yanela in tow—left Honduras for the U.S. on June 3 looking for a better life for her children, according to the Post, and he had no way to contact his wife or daughter after the pair left without telling him.

When Varela saw the photo on the news, he said he immediately recognized his little girl. “The first second I saw it, I knew it was my daughter,” Varela told the Post.

The photographer, Moore, came across the mother and daughter on Tuesday night in McAllen, according to the report, and all he knew was that they were from Honduras and had been traveling for about a month.

After the iconic photo was taken, Moore reported seeing the woman pick up her daughter and retreat into a van. A Time story later incorrectly recounted the photographer’s experience, stating that border agents ripped the screaming child away from her mother. Shortly after, the story was corrected.

TIME Photo-Illustration. Photographs by Getty Images
TIME Photo-Illustration. Photographs by Getty Images

After being reassured by a phone call from an official with the Honduras’s foreign ministry that his wife and daughter remain together, Varela said he doesn’t know anything about their detainment facility or what happens next for the duo.

Although his daughter remains with her mother, Varela believes the various portrayals of his daughter’s story should not cast doubt on the “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,” he told the Post.

The father said he is “proud” that his daughter has “represented the subject of immigration” and provided momentum to necessary changes in policy. But he asked that Trump “put his hand on his heart” moving forward with immigration policy.