▶ Watch Video: U.S. begins reuniting separated migrant children and parents

For 18-year-old Bryan Chavez, Tuesday felt like a dream. It was the first time he’d seen his mother in nearly four years after they were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy in 2017. 

Chavez spent Tuesday anxiously waiting for his mother, Sandra, at the port of entry in San Ysidro, California, where they reunited. 

Seeking a safe haven from Mexican gangs, Bryan, who was 15 at the time, was placed in a refugee shelter while his mother was deported. Finally tonight, a family ripped apart is reunited and mother and son hold each other tight.

“There’s clearly no words to describe the happiness that I’m feeling right now. I’m really grateful with all the people that did this amazing work to allow my mom to come back,” Bryan told CBS News. 

More than 5,500 families were separated under the Trump administration and more than 1,000 children have still not been reunited with their parents. In February, President Biden created a task force to reunite them.

“I think when we saw babies being ripped out of their mom’s arms at the border, when we saw children crying in cages, when we saw that level of cruelty, we really needed to move quickly to a moment like this,” said Lindsay Toczylowski, the executive director of the Immigrant Defenders Law Center.

Chavez’s family is the first of four celebrating reunions this week. Bryan graduated from high school two years ago and his experience affected him so deeply that he is now working with an organization helping refugee children who are going through a similar crisis. “We’re going to try to recover and spend the most time that we can together,” he said. 

Bryan is a permanent U.S. resident. His mother, Sandra, may still have to make her case for asylum. When her grandson saw her, he ran up and asked, “Grandma, will you stay here forever?”