16-year-old migrant from Guatemala reunited with her sister in Iowa City

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 5:17 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) -A 16-year old Guatemalan teen is reunited with her sister in Iowa City after spending more than 3 months in federal detention centers. She’s one of the thousands of unaccompanied minors crossing the border this year, many escaping the effects of hurricanes, drug cartels, or poverty in Central America.

United States Customs and Border Patrol has seen a 163-percent increase in unaccompanied children crossing the southern border this March compared to last March. Those children are only supposed to stay in border patrol facilities for 72-hours, but the overwhelming numbers and spacing needed for COVID-19 overwhelmed the system.

While the number of kids in border patrol custody has dropped, the situation has become a political flashpoint with Republicans blaming President Biden’s policies for the situation, and Biden saying his predecessor’s tactics are the driver for this situation.

Governor Kim Reynolds is demanding a Congressional investigation after surveillance video from the Des Moines Airport shows a plane full of migrant children landing at the airport in April. That’s despite her saying “no” to a Biden Administration request to house such unaccompanied minors.

A reunion 3 months in the making for Juana and Lydia Cuyuch Brito. The younger sister, 16-year old Lydia was detained and sent to a migrant detention center in Pennsylvania in March. She was on her way to join her older sister Juana, who has been in America for 3 years.

“It was good. There was other girls there,” Lydia said through an interpreter. “Ya I felt like they treated me good.”

Lydia got clearance to stay with her older sister and moved into the Iowa City Catholic Worker House with her last week. Juana now working to give her a better life.

“I feel much better. I was so worried before,” said Juana, also speaking through an interpreter. “It was a long time she was in the shelter. They kept asking for different paperwork and I kept sending things and I wasn’t hearing, and it was a long time she was there. Now that she’s here, I’m feeling very good.”

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services shows that unaccompanied minors can apply for asylum, and their journeys to get that point are often harrowing. These sisters want the Governor to realize they are just people trying to have good lives.

“I’m not sure why the government doesn’t give us a chance,” said Lydia. “Everyone deserves a fair opportunity.”

The sisters plan to work and eventually leave the Iowa City Catholic Worker House and build a home of their own.

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