Ginna Isunza is the Immigrant Outreach Program Director for the YWCA Rock County and has children of her own. Last year, she spent four months looking for another mother — a woman in Honduras whose daughter was kidnapped three years ago.
Isunza’s search culminated in early May of 2021 when the little girl stepped off of a plane and was back in her mother’s arms for the first time since she was one month old.
The girl was stolen as an infant by her father, who used her to get into the United States. They moved around the country for months, spending some time in Colorado before he brought her to Wisconsin last year.
The abuse ended in January when the man abandoned the two-year-old girl with an area babysitter. No warning, no guardian, no birth certificate.
The babysitter was an existing client of YWCA Rock County, and that’s when Isunza got the call.
“In 10 years working with the immigrant community, I’ve never had a case like this,” Isunza said. “We were pretty lost. It was a lot to learn.” She spent the next 15 weeks working with the Honduran Consulate in Chicago to find out who the girl was and how they could help her.
Consul Karla Patricia Garcia found a safe place to keep her in southern Wisconsin, while Isunza and the YWCA provided all of her food, clothing, diapers and medical care thanks to donations to their local Immigrant Relief Fund.
Then came the task of locating her family. The consulate obtained the girl’s Honduran birth certificate, which listed a name for her mother. Isunza took to social media to find her. “Deep in my heart, I was worried that she was not going to be reunited with her mother, especially at such a young age,” Isunza said. “It was very traumatic for her, moving from place to place with the dad. It showed in her behavior and all of the emotional damage she carries with her.”
Before long, she found the match, and the woman provided proof to verify she was the mom who had spent two years trying to find her daughter. Isunza, the Chicago consulate and the Directorate of Children, Adolescents and Family (DINAF) in Honduras all collaborated to bring the child home while avoiding a lengthy deportation process or placement in a facility for unaccompanied minors.
That meant they couldn’t use local government agencies like child protective services. “We knew that if we worked with those agencies, she was going to be placed into foster care, and the process would be totally different,” Isunza said. “She had a mom that was looking for her, so we couldn’t go down that road.”
Dozens of calls, emails, appointments and legal documents ensued. The consulate issued an official order that a crime had been committed against the child, ensuring the mother had the legal rights to be reunited with her daughter. Isunza said criminal charges are pending against the girl’s father, who also faces potential deportation in immigration court.
The consulate arranged a flight for the girl to return to Honduras, and the family was made whole this past Spring.