YALAMBOJOCH, Guatemala (Reuters) – Catarina Alonzo, between heavy sobs, explained that her husband, when she left Guatemala to enter the US, hoped they would ease in with her 8-year-old son. Instead, the Boy sick and died.
Catarina Alonzo (C), mother of Felipe Gomez Alonzo, an eight-year-old boy who was arrested along with his father for illegal entry into the United States, who fell ill and died in custody of the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) , responds at her home in Yalambojoch, Guatemala, December 27, 2018. REUTERS / Luis Echeverria
Felipe Gomez Alonzo, imprisoned at the US border, died on Christmas Eve a few weeks after his departure with him father, who this month the second Guatemalan kid who died in US custody.
The two deaths have led to increased criticism of the Trump government's harsh stance on illegal immigration and re-examination of why some Central American migrants travel with children on the long, dangerous road to the north.
When Catarina Alonzo spoke at her home in a mountainous area in western Guatemala, neighbors told the family that taking a child would pave the way for her husband.
"Many of them went with children and managed to cross, even if they were held for a month or two. But they always make it easy to communicate, "she told Reuters in an interview.
US. The Customs and Border Guard (CBP) still has to give the boy an official cause of death and causes democratic lawmakers to intensify the demands for investigation.
The Department of Homeland Security, which states that Felipe Gomez Alonzo and seven-year-old Jakelin Caal, who died on December 8, were the first children to die in a decade in CBP jail, said this week would take a step mean conducting medical examinations of migrant children to prevent further deaths.
Alonzo, an indigenous Maya and native speaker of Chuj, has little Spanish and communicates through a translator. She wore a sweatshirt and a purple dress and spoke in front of her hut in Yalambojoch, a village of about 1,000 people near the Mexican border.
She reported how her son and his father, Agustin, a farm laborer, left early in December to find work in the United States to pay off debts. The two also hoped that the boy would receive better education in the United States, she said. Nevertheless, Alonzo said that her husband had doubts and decided not to take the boy along. But that angered the boy, so they decided to leave.
Alonzo's sobbing was heard in front of the house for several minutes before she came to the interview. Then she went back to a small altar, which she had adorned with three photos of the boy that a local school teacher had printed for her.
The altar stood on one side of a room with cement walls that served as a sleeping and living space for Alonzo and her three surviving children. Adjacent was a kitchen with dirt floor and wooden walls.
Her husband remains in custody in the United States.
"NOW OR NEVER"
Marta Larra, a spokeswoman for the Guatemala Foreign Ministry, said smugglers known as "coyotes" often encourage migrants to take children as a "visa" from migrant families, so bear their word Mass.
But Lucas Perez, mayor of Yalambojoch, said some coyotes are only interested in ripping people away. For many migrants trying to cross the US border, taking a child was the only option, he told Reuters.
The migration from the area referred to as "constant", Perez estimated that about 200 people live in the small village in the United States.
Agustin Gomez, the boy's father, has two brothers in the United States whom he hoped to meet, his wife said.
Next to their shack, the workers were working on a two-story concrete house with a brick gable roof – proof of the money coming back from the United States, the mayor said.
Under US law, families from countries not bordering the United States can not be immediately deported. Due to a long-standing legal regulation, there are restrictions on how long US authorities can hold migrant children.
As a result, families with children are often released to await a hearing before the Immigration Court, which can be planned far into the future due to congestion arrears.
US. President Donald Trump has attempted to reverse the policy he calls "catch and release" but has been blocked by federal court trials.
His Democratic opponents have seized the death of the two Guatemalan children to attack his policy. On Thursday, Senator Dianne Feinstein called on the Senate to hold a hearing on the treatment of children in the US in the New Year.
Meanwhile, Trump's insistence on building a southern boundary wall has given coyotes a new argument to encourage migration, Larra said.
"According to interviews (with migrants), the coyotes say" now or never "because the wall is being built and it is not possible to cross it," she said.
Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Additional reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher in Mexico City and Mica Rosenberg in New York; Editing by Dave Graham, Rosalba O'Brien and Leslie Adler