She became the face of the family separation crisis at the border. The only problem is that she was not separated from her family.
At just two years old, Yanela Denise found herself gracing the cover of Time magazine in a Photoshopped image made to look like she was being looked down at by President Donald Trump. The original photo Yenela was taken as she and her mother were being detained after illegally crossing the Mexican border in Texas.
Yanela’s father, Denis Javier Varela Hernandez, broke the news that mother and daughter were never separated to the Daily Mail on Friday. Hernandez told the paper his wife Sandra took their daughter on an 1,800 mile trek from Honduras. He says she had previously talked about experiencing America and living the American Dream, but the actual departure of his wife and daughter came as a surprise. “I never got the chance to say goodbye to my daughter and now all I can do is wait,” he said.
Hernandez said he had not heard from his wife for nearly three weeks when he saw the now iconic photo of his daughter crying. “You can imagine how I felt when I saw that photo of my daughter. It broke my heart. It’s difficult as a father to see that, but I know now that they are not in danger. They are safer now than when they were making that journey to the border,” he told the Daily Mail.
The Daily Mail reports Hernandez’ “wife and child are being detained at a family residential center in Texas but are together and are doing fine.” He said he did not support Sandra’s decision to leave their home and seek asylum in America. “I didn’t support it. I asked her, why? Why would she want to put our little girl through that? But it was her decision at the end of the day,” he said. “I don’t have any resentment for my wife, but I do think it was irresponsible of her to take the baby with her in her arms because we don’t know what could happen.”
Hernandez said things were OK in Honduras, “I wouldn’t risk my life for it. It’s hard to find a good job here and that’s why many people choose to leave. But I thank God that I have a good job here. And I would never risk my life making that journey.”
According to a statement by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Sandra had already been deported once from the US in 2013. Hernandez said he heard from friends his wife paid $6,000 to a human trafficker for help with the voyage across the border. She only took one of the couple’s four children along.
The photo of Yanela was taken by Getty Images photographer John Moore on June 12. Getty captioned the image as a mother and daughter “sent to a processing center for possible separation.”
Moore told the Washington Post he had assumed the mother and daughter would be separated.
A Facebook Fundraiser used the photo to inspire donations to help reunite families separated at the border. Charlotte and Dave Willner created the fundraiser in hopes of raising $1,500 from friends and family. In its first week, nearly a half million Facebook users donated over $18 million towards the new goal of $20 million.
Watch this CNN panel tell Time Magazine they were wrong: