On a Tuesday in January, four years after American authorities pried Maria Hernandez away from her daughters and deported her back to Honduras, she returned to the United States - this time with the blessing of the U.S. government.
At the Los Angeles International Airport, Nicole, now 7, greeted her mother with a single red rose. Michelle, nearly a teenager, hung back with a bouquet of roses and sunflowers. When Hernandez turned towards her, Michelle rushed into her embrace, sobbing.
"I was far away but always thinking of you," Hernandez whispered to her daughters.
"All the problems, I kept it to myself because it's weird telling a teacher or a friend or somebody, because maybe they will not understand you or they will just feel bad about you," she said after spending her first day with her mother.
Speaking in fluent English, Michelle said she tried to be strong for kid sister Nicole who became sad when she saw other schoolchildren with their mothers.
"I said 'some day you will be like that, someday you will be with your mom.'"
"The past is the past," she added. "Now that my mom is here, I want to make new memories."
(Picture Editing Gabrielle Fonseca Johnson; Text Editing Kristina Cooke, Julie Marquis; Layout Kezia Levitas)