One year after leaving detention facility, immigrant mother says she's grateful to be in America

Immigrant family faces uncertain future
Immigrant family faces uncertain future 02:09

There's an update to a story the "CBS Evening News" first reported on last year from the U.S.-Mexico border, where a mother and her son were detained at a crowded detention facility in McAllen, Texas. Much has changed since, but the family that escaped threats in their home country still faces an uncertain future in the U.S.

CBS News first met Angelina Estrada and her then 2-year-old son, Martín, in July 2019. Estrada, a journalist, fled Venezuela after being threatened for her reporting on the authoritarian government. She traveled with her son and was left alone in the jungle.

"I had to walk so, so much," Estrada said in Spanish at the time.

Angelina Estrada
Angelina Estrada with her son Martín in July 2019.  CBS News

They were among about 815 families packed into the McAllen detention facility. CBS News had the first cameras inside to document mothers and children sleeping on mats. Unaccompanied infants, alone in this makeshift nursery.

Now, those facilities are nearly empty. We met Estrada in Florida. Her family found out she was alive from our interview.

Now, they live with her sister, who is an American citizen. She said Martín is still traumatized by crossing the Rio Grande River.

"Every time we pass a lagoon he says, 'Mommy, do you remember when we fell in the river?' Always," she said.

estrada-mom-child.png
Angelina Estrada with Martín in 2020.  CBS News

Estrada is grateful to be in America now and lucky to be able to celebrate birthdays. Because the Trump administration, citing the coronavirus pandemic, has sent nearly 160,000 people who tried to cross the border back home without a hearing.

"I never in my life imagined crossing the border with my son," Estrada said. "But as a mother, you can do anything."

Estrada said she expects to finally have her asylum hearing later this month.

  • Norah O'Donnell
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    Norah O'Donnell is the anchor and managing editor of the "CBS Evening News." She also contributes to "60 Minutes."