PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- We've all seen the heart wrenching images of tens of thousands of families separated at the border. This is one of those stories.
After trying to flee Honduras, Mabel Gonzalez was detained in Texas and sent back, leaving her 18-year-old son, Alex, to take care of his two younger brothers for four years.
"There's people killing others and in areas, a lot of robbery," Alex says, in explaining why the family fled Honduras. "It made me feel very fearful of coming out of my house. Once you're targeted, they don't stop until they find you and they'll look for you until they find you then they'll kill you."
"They were being hunted by these men who'd already killed his uncles," says Immigration and Family Law Attorney, Karenina Wolff, "They killed four of his mom's brothers."
Alex was 17 when the family decided to risk the journey across the border for a better, less fearful life. He was 18 by the time they actually crossed the border.
"I couldn't turn myself in to ICE because I was already 18. And I didn't want to be deported," Alex says, "I would've been sent back. And I would've gone back to the same danger that I was escaping."
He says he had to walk 15 days and 16 nights before reaching a store that made him realize he was in the US.
His mom, however, was detained in Texas and then deported back to Honduras.
"But then she turned right around and said it's too dangerous. And went back through Guatemala, back to Mexico and then established herself at the Mexican border trying to get back to her kids," Wolff explains.
Alex, she says, was the one "who really stepped in to take guardianship of his brothers."
"Between the three of us, we used to cook while I was working, they would go to school but they would help out," Alex says, "It was about four years that I did not see my mom."
Wolff says she did not see a legal way for Alex's mom to get asylum in the United States and be reunited with her children, "It was like 'she's been deported.' To come back, you have to get a waiver. You have to wait ten years, normally."
But Mabel's lawyer got them to reopen her deportation case and let her in on humanitarian parole, "Which is basically a way to say we're going to let you in for these extreme humanitarian reasons," Wolff explains, "When their mom showed up, it was like an apparition like we can't even begin to process that she's even here."
"I was in shock," Alex says, remembering the tearful reunion, "I couldn't move. I saw everybody was running up to hug her but I was numb. I was able to feel the warmth of her arms again."
With mom and sons reunited, Alex can go back to being a kid again.
"I couldn't believe it was her. Or it was really happening," Alex says, "Because to me, she's my everything."
"I felt a huge respect for my son, Alex," Mabel says, "because he took a really important role in all of this like as a father, really, and doing what he had to do to take care of his brothers. And any mother or father would feel really proud of a son who did this."
Alex was 18 when he came here so his legal situation, Wolff says, remains uncertain.
"I really don't know why people don't understand sometimes," Alex says, in explaining why he took the risk, "maybe it's because we're Hispanic coming to this country. Come here to bring danger but in reality, we come over because we want a better life. And to do that we work," he says, "Now that we're united, we feel like a family. And we're happier."