Can We Reunite Immigrant Families Using Technology?

Jacquelyn Iyamah
Sep 10, 2019 · 7 min read

‘Reunite’ is a user generated database that reconnects separated immigrants. — A UX Case Study.

Project Summary

Thousands of families have been separated due to immigration policies in the US. While many were ordered to be reunited with their parents; today, several have still not reconnected. I designed a platform called ‘Reunite’ to help us visualize what the process of bringing families back together could potentially look like.

Role: Solo User Experience Designer | User research, Information Architecture,Usability testing, UI design, Prototyping.


In my discovery phase, I examined interviews, articles, and reports to get a better understanding of why families have not been reunited. After sorting through this information, I was able to highlight some major pain points.

Meeting the Users

Through my research process, I found the main stakeholders of the immigration separation process to be as follows:

I then created users personas to gain a deeper sense of the types of people who could use the Reunite website. Below are 3 personas : A parent who has been separated from their child, an immigration detention facility processor, and a foster home owner.

The Journey

My in-depth research enabled me to map out the process of how immigrant families are separated. I created a journey map of a parent and a child to illustrate what this experience looks like, and to give me a better sense of where in the journey the product would be helpful. The orange blocks indicate the specific areas that I envision this product being used.

Parent Journey Map

Child Journey Map

Design Decisions

Based on the what I learned from my research, I decided to design a user generated database that enables immigrants to search for family members.

  1. Users will create a profile. While the platform can be used by parents and children (who are old enough) who have access to use computers; I understand that many immigrants will not have access to computers. Thus, foster home owners, social workers, mental heath workers, shelter home employees, immigration lawyers, and government officials at facilities can create accounts on behalf of parents and children.
  2. As more users create profiles the database will begin to fill out. Individuals can then search the database for loved ones.
  3. Users can setup alerts and be notified when someone matching the description of who they are looking for, creates an account.
  4. Recognizing that this process will not always be straightforward and may require legal and emotional mediators; the platform will direct users to immigration lawyers and social workers.


I then created wireframes of the website and tested it on a couple of users to get their take on how user-friendly the website was.

Usability Testing

As can be seen below, when a user initially wanted to learn more about a particular individual, a small window would open up on the page. However during testing, some users stated that this made the process feel less human. One individual I tested stated “People deserve to have their own entire page about themselves.” Thus I enlarged the window.

When a user initially wanted to search for someone by appearance, they would be taken to page with no filter options. One user noted that it would feel easier it they could filter the appearance based on factors such as eye color, hair color, height, and more.

Something that I wasn't entirely sure how to work around was the idea of creating a profile/account. I wanted users to be able to login, but I did not want to assume that all users had access to an email. I decided to create two designs and conduct an A/B test. The first design just asks for a username and password — but would create issues if a user forgot any of these credentials. The second design allows for users to answer a secret question if they forgot their credentials. All users tested preferred the option B.

Design System


I incorporated the feedback from the wireframes and the design system into mockups. I then tested the mockups to get additional feedback about the platform.

Usability Testing

When I tested the mockups, the main feedback I got was that the navigation menu felt a little harsh, and that the logo was not appealing. I decided to clean up the menu, change the wording of the menu item “Setup Alert” to “Setup an Alert”, and completely change the logo. I made the letter “i” in reunite into a search icon, to highlight the fact that this is a platform to help users find loved ones.

Users also pointed out that the homepage would be better if there was more information about how the platform worked. Thus, I redesigned the homepage to include steps to the process to make sure that users truly understood all the benefits of the platform.

Introducing ‘Reunite’


The homepage gives individuals a sense of what to expect while using the platform. Users can also read testimonials of families that were successfully reunited.

Create a Profile

Individuals can create profiles for themselves, or have profiles created for them. To create a profile, they input information about their background, their appearance, and their story. Their information is then generated into the general database.

Search the Database

As profiles are created, the database begins to fill up. Users are able to search for someone by their date of birth, gender, name, and nationality. If they find who they are looking for, they can click “connect”.

Search by Appearance

For those who can’t be identified, such as young children or babies; those in custody of the children can upload their photo, height, weight, eye color, hair color, and gender. Users then have the option to search for children by appearance.

Setup an Alert

Users can fill out a form describing the family member that they are looking for. If an individual matching their description creates a profile, they will be alerted.

Additional Resources

Because this is a multi-layered experience, I didn’t want to just create a platform that only allowed users to search for family. I wanted to create a resource for those who need to connect with immigration lawyers and social workers to work through their experience.

Final Considerations

This was a powerful project to delve into. It pushed me to think about the possibilities there are to help reunite families that have been separated due to immigration policy. However, I also recognize that in order for this to work, there would need to be cooperation by all stakeholders, including government authorities. If you have any thoughts, feel free to comment below! I would love to hear your input.

If you are interested in connecting with me, feel free to add me on Linkedin

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Join The Startup’s +794K followers.

Sign up for Top 10 Stories

By The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Subscribe to receive The Startup's top 10 most read stories — delivered straight into your inbox, once a week. Take a look.

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Jacquelyn Iyamah

Written by

Product Equity & Inclusions Strategist. Degrees from UC Berkeley, and the University of Baltimore. —

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +794K followers.

Jacquelyn Iyamah

Written by

Product Equity & Inclusions Strategist. Degrees from UC Berkeley, and the University of Baltimore. —

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +794K followers.

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store