Originally Published in The Daily Beast.
By Scott Bixby
February 5, 2019
A Guatemalan mother and daughter who were separated under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy have a message for Americans before the State of the Union address: Immigrants are not worth less than you, no matter what the president says in his speech on Tuesday night.
“Don’t keep telling us that we are lesser, because we are all equal,” Albertina Contreras Teletor told The Daily Beast. “Immigration is a right that we all have.”
When Albertina and her daughter, Yakelin Garcia Contreras, were detained at the U.S.-Mexico border nine months ago, they were called “animals” by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents before being separated for more than two months. Now, Albertina and Yakelin will walk into the U.S. Capitol as invited guests of Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), one of at least four members of Congress who have invited undocumented immigrants, asylum seekers, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients to the State of the Union address.
For Albertina and Yakelin, both victims of the Trump administration’s policy of removing migrant children from their families when they crossed into the United States, the change in circumstance has been surreal.
“I’m so happy for the opportunity that they’re giving us,” Albertina said in Spanish, translated by Taylor Levy, legal coordinator of the non-profit Annunciation House. “It’s just felt so different from all of the pain that we’ve suffered.”
“I just feel so happy to have this big opportunity, to be so little and actually meet a senator!” said Yakelin, who is celebrating her 12th birthday on Tuesday.
Despite their excitement, Albertina and Yakelin have not forgotten that their presence in the House Chamber will mean that they will be in the same room as Trump, whose policies separated them and whose public statements about immigrants and asylum seekers have painted them as violent criminals.