Separated and kept in an office: How a 7-year-old remembers zero tolerance

In May of 2018, Maria Antonia Larios Soto began the trek from Guatemala to the U.S.-Mexico border with her then 6-year-old son, Wilson. They arrived at the border in late May, and just after crossing, were apprehended by a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent.

Larios Soto soon learned that she would be separated from her son for an indefinite period of time under President Donald Trump’s new family separation policy. Wilson should have been taken to a licensed shelter, with beds and showers. Instead, he was taken to an unfurnished and unlicensed office building by a private contractor called MVM, Inc. a company that has received contracts worth up to $225 million from the federal government since 2014 for transporting immigrant children.

The office had no bedrooms, kitchens, showers or outdoor play area. Children of all ages were kept together. Wilson stayed at an office for two nights, sleeping on the floor next to other strangers. In this PBS NewsHour segment — based on an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting — reporter Aura Bogado gains a rare glimpse into these lucrative private contractors’ operations through the vivid memory of a young boy.

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