Brazilian mom, 10-year-old son separated at border reunited in Chicago

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CHICAGO — A Brazilian woman separated from her son in May while seeking asylum in the U.S. has been reunited with her 10-year-old son in Chicago.

The woman’s attorney says the reunion occurred Thursday just hours after a federal judge ordered the U.S. government to release the boy to his mother.

The mother, Sirley Silveira Paixao, cried as Judge Manish Shah said they should be promptly reunited.

The 30-year-old woman couldn’t stop smiling after the hearing. Through an interpreter, she said she was “very happy” and would never let her son leave her side.

The mother and son were all smiles as they walked up to a tangle of microphones to address reporters. Paixao leaned over and kissed her son on the cheek.

Paixao said she was looking forward to taking her son, Diego, to Massachusetts, where she has been living with family friends, getting him enrolled in school and getting herself a job.

She said she wants to “just live a happy life,” she said, “and just forget that all of this ever happened.”

“It just feels like a burden is off my shoulders,” Paixao added. “Because all that was missing was him. Without him my life was incomplete.”

She said it was “extremely difficult” being separated from her son, and that she had trouble sleeping and eating.

Diego, said he felt “relieved.” While in Chicago he said he played soccer and watched the World Cup.

But tonight? He’s craving McDonalds, his mom said, laughing.

Asked by reporters if she had any advice for other migrant parents who are fighting to be reunited with their children, Paixao encouraged them to “look for an attorney” and “seek your rights.”

“Because it is possible for them to be released,” she said.

Paixao arrived in the United States and passed an initial screening determining that she had a credible fear of persecution in her native country and was in need of asylum, her attorneys said in a press conference earlier in the day. Still, she was taken into custody for allegedly making an illegal entry, and separated from her son.

Attorney Jesse Bless said Paixao pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for either attempting to enter the country unlawfully or entering the country unlawfully.

Paixao was released from custody days later, but did not receive accurate instructions on how to reunite with her son, the attorneys said. She eventually learned that her son was in Chicago from another Brazilian mother, Piaxao said.

The attorneys, Bless and Miller, filed a complaint on July 2 seeking the release of her son into her care, and the judge granted her request on Thursday, the attorneys said. The order came shortly after Shah reunited another Brazilian family. He mulled his decision in the other case for hours, but he took just minutes, noting no one questioned the mother’s fitness to care for her child.

“It is our hope that today’s ruling offers comfort and inspiration to other parents and children who likewise have been separated as they pursue a better life in this country,” Bless and Miller said in a joint statement.

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