Stranded at US-Mexico border for 18 months, mother finally embraces son at Charlotte airport

Giving up was not an option

Numerous obstacles are faced by many immigrant families who cross the border in search of the American dream.

And for one family from Venezuela, giving up was not an option.

Here is a video of the reunification of a mother and her young son after almost two years of being apart.

25-year-old Belén Zavarce and her 4-year-old son, Santiago Villegas, finally embraced at Charlotte’s airport last week.

The MPP, or Migrant Protection Protocols program, implemented in 2019 by the previous president’s administration and which required asylum seekers to remain at the border during the process, had kept them separated.

“There were times when I just wanted to go over there and find him,” said Zavarce, who came to Charlotte on a tourist visa six months prior to her son leaving for the U.S.

She said she could never provide for her son back in Venezuela.

Little Santiago and his father, David Villegas, 28, were stranded for over a year and a half at the U.S.-Mexico border after requesting U.S. asylum – a situation that nearly 60 thousand other migrants faced under the MPP program, according The Washington Times.

Cases were delayed even more due to the pandemic.

“It was simply a form of racism,” said Villegas. “But thanks to Biden’s Administration and after a year and a half of court deferments, I was allowed to enter the U.S.”

During their wait at the border, Villegas and his son were able to rent a small apartment thanks to the money that Zavarce sent them, but the wait became a nightmare.

“We went through physical and psychological violence, my son and I,” Villages said.

“Thanks to God I am now with my son, who’s about to turn 5 and didn’t know what was going on. He would ask me, “Mom, why is your house so far away?” explained Zavarce.

Last Saturday, this mother and little Santiago celebrated his birthday after a long time of being apart.

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at