HOUSTON (FOX 26) - It has been one week since Cindy Madrid and her 6-year-old daughter, Allison Jimena Valencia, were reunited at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. The two of them fled from El Salvador and were separated at the Texas-Mexico border in June.
Allison had apparently memorized her aunt's telephone number and her cries to immigration officers for help were recorded and released by Pro Publica. At a news conference on Friday, the family's attorney said she believes Allison's voice may have triggered the investigation into the separation of families at the border.
Madrid told FOX 26 that it has been a smooth transition so far.
"Everyone has been very welcoming to them," said FIEL executive director Cesar Espinosa, who was translating for the family. "Some people are even recognizing Allison on the street and Allison responds, 'Yes, it's me. I've been on TV.'"
The journey to reunification was no easy task and neither is starting over from scratch in the U.S., but Madrid said fleeing from her home country of El Salvador was the only way to escape the growing gang violence and keep Allison safe.
"It's definitely scary for us," said Madrid in Spanish. "If one does not do what they ask, a lot of times people get killed because of that. A lot of people have been killed by the gang members because they have not done what the gang members have asked of them."
Madrid and Allison are now in the process of applying for asylum, which could take anywhere from six months to a year. In the meantime, Cindy isn't allowed to get a job. Aside from a $4,600 donation from a non-profit group, the mother and daughter are relying entirely on their family here for financial help.
"Once I'm able to receive my work permit, the plan is for me to start working to start providing Allison with a better quality of life, something that we cannot obtain in El Salvador," added Madrid. "I know that if we're here in the U.S., we'll be safe, something that's not guaranteed in El Salvador, my home country."
For now, the two are trying to learn English. Allison has enrolled in singing lessons and ballet class.
She hopes to start Pre-Kindergarten in the fall to kickstart her future career goals.
"She wants to be a doctor, veterinarian, and a chef because that's what her mom wanted to be when she grew up," added Espinosa.
The family's attorney said Madrid has an initial hearing set for Aug. 21 in Harlingen, although the family may try to move that to Houston. At the hearing, Madrid will be presented with her charges that she entered the country illegally. Madrid will also then be able to file her application for asylum before a judge.