Separated at the border: A mother's story

A mother is suing the U.S. government to be reunited with her son.

"It's a terrible thing, the experience we've had," Jocelyn, who asked that her last name not be used, said in Spanish.

"He didn't know where he was going, so he was looking at me like, 'Mom, help me, because I don't know where they're taking me,' Jocelyn, 31, said Wednesday, beginning to sob uncontrollably. "I didn't know what was going to happen to us. I spent the night crying because I wanted James to be protected, and I didn't know what was going to happen to him."

So are the people trying to help her.

“They say these children will never feel safe in their lives. They will always feel vulnerable.”

Jocelyn, on behalf of herself and hundreds of others, is suing several federal agencies, claiming it's illegal for the government to keep families separated for no legitimate reason after a fit parent has served a sentence -- three days to two weeks -- for the misdemeanor of illegally crossing the border. Jocelyn's case, he said, is only the tip of the iceberg.

"Literally 3-, 4-, 5-year-olds screaming, 'Please don't take me away from my mommy,' and being ripped away," Gelernt said.

Gelernt said the separating of undocumented families has hit a fever pitch under the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance policy."

Meanwhile, ABC News cameras were also rolling Wednesday as a group of immigrant families was released from ICE custody into a halfway house in El Paso, Texas. Many still looked shaken by fear, both children and parents. They were greeted by Ruben Garcia, who has been running the shelter for more than 40 years.

"For the past 12 to 18 months, we're seeing something we have never seen before," Garcia said. "As I like to say, it's like enforcement on steroids with the things that are being done here on the border."

He has taken in families who have been separated and petitioned the government to let them know he has room for the children who have been taken from parents, Garcia said. But, he added, the process drags along and some parents spend months without seeing their children.

"It's inhumane, immoral," Garcia said. "We need to ask ourselves, ‘Who do we want to be?’ Things that we, as a countryman take pride in; I can’t see how we as a country could take pride in separating children."

Asked whether she has second thoughts about crossing that border now that she hasn't seen her son for so long, she said, "This is a hard question to answer. If you're on that side, it's horrible. And if you're on this side, it's also horrible.”

"Please help us. We are here looking for protection."