DACA recipient travels more than 900 miles to reunite with father after 8-year separation

The DACA-recipient daughter of a Mexican immigrant father who was deported back to Mazatlán, Mexico, in 2013, has been reunited with her father for the first time in eight years, just in time for the holidays.

Video Transcript

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- An immigrant father deported back to Mexico in 2013 who was forced to leave behind his three daughters, his wife, and the country he called his own received his Christmas wish, a long-awaited reunion with his little girls.

- Yeah.

[SCREAMING]

[CLAPPING]

[LAUGHTER]

- Bravo!

- [INAUDIBLE]

- Bravo.

KARIME RODRIGUEZ: It was an unbelievable moment. We didn't believe that it was happening. We didn't eat all morning. We were so anxious, and then finally just seeing him, it was like a rush of emotions, and I started sobbing. I didn't think that I was going to cry that hard. At one point, it felt really familiar, like I really missed just this feeling of togetherness.

- Karime was 14 years old when she witnessed her father's arrest at their home in Arizona. Her father was among the over 401,000 people who were deported during that time frame in 2013.

KARIME RODRIGUEZ: We were just having a normal evening at home. My sister and I were in our room. My dad and my mom were in the living room. And all of a sudden, we heard really, really loud knocks on the door. I have just the image engraved in my mind. We were coming out. My dad was handcuffed by then. And they had him sitting in a chair, and then just moments after they took him.

- That was the last moment Karime and her three sisters saw their father. In a blink of an eye, their world turned upside down, having to quickly navigate the adult world.

KARIME RODRIGUEZ: We quickly had to figure out how we were going to put food on the table, how we were going to pay the bills. I was 14. As soon as I was 15 and 1/2, and I could apply for DACA, I did. I got it, and I started working. And my oldest sister was going to university at the time, and she had to drop out so that she could start working as well.

I was going to high school 40 hours a week and also working 40 hours a week. My oldest sister was working double shifts and overtime. My mom was as well. And we spent days without electricity or water or being able to put food on the table.

He is a very loving father, always a family man. He gave my sisters and I the best childhood that we could possibly have. We lived very humbly but full of love. And we never needed anything because he always-- he just took care of us.

- After eight years of being separated and being miles apart, Karime and her older sister, who also has DACA, received news in June that they could apply for an educational program called Winter of Dreams. The program allowed them to apply for advanced parole. This would allow them the opportunity to take college courses in Mexico City while also seeing family they haven't been able to see since they were brought to the US as children. After a five-month process, they were approved.

KARIME RODRIGUEZ: It's so amazing to be here. I mean, it feels new but nostalgic at the same time, like I've been here before. But of course, I don't remember anything. We're building so many memories with our dad in this time that I know it's going to be hard when we have to say goodbye again. But right now, we're just cherishing every second of it. And I think my best memory so far is probably we went to a baseball game.

He is always grabbing our cheeks. And it just feels like we're his little girls again, even though we're in our 20s and almost 30s. It's like we feel that protection again that we were missing all these years. We have that friendship again. And it's just like time didn't pass by. The only thing that happened is we aged. We still hold hands all of us when we're walking down the street. It feels the same but in a new place.

- But Karime says that although being approved and allowed to travel, this reunion is temporary. That's why she says it's crucial for change to happen now.

KARIME RODRIGUEZ: I think ideally, immigration reform because there's thousands of families who have lived and are living through the separation. And it's something that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

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