When the audio of then- 6-year-old Alison Jimena Valencia Madrid begging to call her aunt while in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility it made national news. In the 2018 recording obtained by ProPublica, she can be heard begging to make the phone call amid cries of 10 children calling for their parents. She had memorized her aunt’s number and agents later called her but she was also an asylum seeker and feared helping would jeopardize her own case. Alison, who is from El Salvador, was reunited with her mother, Cindy Madrid, about a month later and their story is now being made into a Lifetime film entitled Torn From Her Arms, Deadline exclusively reported.
“I know she’s not an American citizen,” the aunt told ProPublica back in 2018. “But she’s a human being. She’s a child. How can they treat her this way?”
Torn from Her Arms will focus their escape from the violence in El Salvador only to be separated at the border and detained in different centers. The film is meant to shine a light on the child separation policies as part of the zero-tolerance policy which began in April 2018 during the Trump administration. Under this policy, every migrant attempting to cross the U.S. border anywhere other than at an official port of entry was to be detained and criminally prosecuted. This led to the separation of children and their families with more than 2,300 separated in June 2018 when the audio was released, ProPublica reported. More than 100 of those children are under the age of 4. The children are initially held in warehouses, tents or big box stores that have been converted into Border Patrol detention facilities.
More than 2,300 of them have been separated from their parents since April, when the Trump administration launched its zero tolerance immigration policy, which calls for prosecuting all people who attempt to illegally enter the country and taking away the children they brought with them. More than 100 of those children were under the age of 4. Last year lawyers revealed that they weren’t able to find the parents of more than 500 migrant children showcasing the heartbreaking effects of the policy.
Cindy and Alison moved into the garage a relative’s home in Houston after they reunited, ProPublica reported. Alison attended school while Cindy joined a Christian Salvadoran social club and enrolled in night school to learn English so that she can find a job. During a press conference following their reunion, Cindy told other families experiencing the same thing: “Do not give up. It’s a hard journey. … But, there is hope. … The law can change.”
— tawnya benavides bhattacharya (@tbhattacharya) February 16, 2021
Torn From Her Arms is an original movie from Ozy Media, the company’s first foray into scripted programming. The film is written by Tawnya Bhattacharya and Ali Laventhol, they’ve previously worked together on A Million Little Things (ABC), Famous in Love (Freeform), The Night Shift (NBC), Perception (TNT), The Client List (Lifetime) and Fairly Legal (USA0. The film has yet to hire a director and casting is also still in the works.