The twelfth soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border (and hopefully my last, at least for a while):
Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle, Age 10
Of El Salvador
Died Sept. 29, 2018 of heart complications,
Darlyn was encountered by Border Patrol on March 1, 2018, a few miles west of Hidalgo, Texas. She complained of chest pain and three days later, was transferred to HHS custody where she remained for about seven months. Darlyn was treated for a congenital heart defect at various hospitals -- including in San Antonio, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona.
HHS spokesperson Mark Weber told CNN Darlyn had surgery complications that left her in a comatose state. She was transported to a nursing facility in Phoenix and later to Children's Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska, where she died on September 29, due to fever and respiratory distress.
Darlyn was traveling to the US to find her mom, who had migrated from El Salvador to work and provide for her three daughters nine years earlier. She hoped to be reunited with her mother in Nebraska. Her mother asked that Darlyn be released to her care. The government refused.
Her body was returned to El Salvador.
Darlyn's story HERE.
The eleventh soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border:
Claudia Patricia Gómez González, Age 20
of San Juan Ostuncalco, Guatemala
Shot by BP agent, May 24, 2018
Rio Bravo, TX
Claudia earned a degree in accounting but had not been able to find a job in her home country of Guatemala, so she traveled 1,500 miles to the United States, hoping to find a job and a better future. Shortly after she set foot in Texas, a Border Patrol agent shot her in the head and killed her.
Gomez-Gonzalez's shooting drew international attention after a bystander posted video of the aftermath on Facebook Live, showing her lying on the ground, bleeding. Authorities changed their initial account of the shooting two days later, adding to the controversy at a time when the White House has cracked down on undocumented immigrants.
The deadly encounter ended the journey Gomez-Gonzalez started nearly three weeks before in an indigenous community in San Juan Ostuncalco, Guatemala.
The details around the death of this young Guatemalan woman remain unresolved, as the majority of migrant deaths are. And like many others, a wrongful death suit against CBP on her behalf was filed, a year after her death.
Claudia's story HERE.
The tenth soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Johana Medina-León, Age 25
of El Salvador
Died June 1, 2019
Medina's journey to the U.S. had taken months. She had waited for a Mexican transitory visa for more than a month in Tapachula, Chiapas, near the Guatemalan border, Diversidad Sin Fronteras stated. The advocacy group said Medina waited nearly three months in Juárez before she was allowed to make her asylum claim to U.S. immigration officials in El Paso.
Johana known to friends as "Joa," died at the Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, after being detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement for seven weeks. Medina had been a certified nurse in El Salvador but sought asylum in the U.S. because she couldn't work as an open trans woman in the nursing profession in her home country. From April 11 to about May 23, her health deteriorated and she tested positive for HIV. She begged for medical attention that never came.
In mid-May, she had passed her "credible fear" interview, which determined she would be persecuted if she returned to El Salvador, but Leon wasn't paroled until she began complaining of chest pains and was taken to Del Sol Medical Center. She passed away four days later.
Johana's story HERE.
The ninth soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Juan de León Gutiérrez, Age 16
Died April 30, 2019
After 2 years of drought, Juan left an area of Guatemala where children are known to be stunted by malnutrition. He hoped to be reunited with his brother in Miami.
Juan was apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol near El Paso after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. He was transferred to a local hospital after a doctor at a government shelter noticed he was sick. He was released and hospitalized again a day later. Juan was 16 years old when he died of a brain infection.
His family had no money--not even to take the bus to Guatemala City where an airplane carrying his body would arrive.
More of Juan's story HERE.
The eighth soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Carlos Gregorio Hernandez-Vasquez, Age 16
Died May 20, 2019,
Carlos died in Border Patrol custody while trying to reunite with family members in the United States. He was also venturing north to support his siblings, one of whom is disabled. 1 of 9 children from an area of extreme poverty in the Guatemalan Highlands, he was a soccer player, a musician who played bass and piano, and a healthy young man, his family told a Guatemalan television station.
Hernandez succumbed to the flu, complicated by pneumonia and sepsis, on or near the toilet of his South Texas Border Patrol cell. His body was returned to Guatemala.
More of Carlos' story HERE.
New Report Shows “Deeply Troubling Failures” by Border Patrol in Boy’s Death, Key Congressional Leader Says
ProPublica, Sept. 17, 2021
Inside the Cell Where a Sick 16-Year-Old Boy Died in Border Patrol Care
ProPublica, Dec. 5, 2019
The seventh soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vázquez, Age 2
Died May 14, 2019, Texas
Wilmer's mother brought him to the U.S. to get him medical care for a condition that left him unable to walk. Wilmer and his mother Hilda left home in March to make the journey to the U.S. He became ill in Mexico and crossed into the United States with a high fever and difficulty breathing. Diagnosed with pneumonia and other complications at a children's hospital, Wilmer died about a month later.
Wilmer's story HERE.
The sixth soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Roxsana Hernandez-Rodriguez, Age 33
Died May 30, 2018, New Mexico
Roxsana said she had fled Honduras in part because of the discrimination and violence she faced for being transgender. (She was gang-raped by four MS-13 members and contracted HIV. ) She said in an interview, "Trans people in my neighborhood are killed and chopped into pieces, then dumped inside potato bags."
Hernandez was one of roughly 25 transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals who joined the annual caravan of Central American migrants heading to the US border. She crossed at the San Ysidro Port of Entry near San Diego and was later transferred to a CPB facility in NM for transgender detainees. She succumbed to symptoms of pneumonia, severe dehydration, and complications associated with HIV and later died from cardiac arrest.
Roxsana's story HERE.
The fourth & fifth souls in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Óscar Alberto Martínez-Ramírez, 25 yrs.
Angie Valeria, 23 mos.
both of El Salvador
Drowned together in the Rio Grande River, June 24, 2019
Working at a pizzeria in El Salvador, Óscar made approximately $350 a month supporting his wife Tania Vanessa Ávalos, and their young daughter, Valeria. The three lived with his mother, Rosa Ramírez, in a two-bedroom home outside of San Salvador. She gave them the larger room, but they wanted more than a life on $10 a day.
Frustrated at being unable to present themselves to U.S. authorities and request asylum, Oscar swam across the river with his daughter. He set her on the U.S. bank of the river and started back for his wife, but seeing him move away the girl threw herself into the waters. Óscar returned and was able to grab Valeria, but the current then swept them both away.
Oscar & Valeria's story HERE.
The third soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Mariee Juarez of Guatemala
Age: 19 mos.
Died May 10, 2018, New Jersey
(after being held at ICE detention in Dilley, TX)
After experiencing inhospitable violence in her home country, Mariee's mother, Yazmin Juárez, was faced with the difficult choice of staying in Guatemala and likely facing death or fleeing to the United States to apply for asylum. The decision to embark on such a journey was a remarkably dangerous one with no guarantee of obtaining legal status in the end, but as Yazmin recounted, the crushing instability of their home country made staying put impossible.
When the two arrived at the border in Texas, they were quickly funneled into the U.S. immigrant detention system to wait for their case to be processed. They were both examined by a doctor and found to be healthy. The two were then transferred to a facility in Dilley, Texas where they were crammed into a filthy, crowded cell with sick children. Mariee became sick within a week of their detention with a cough and runny nose and grew steadily worse; contracting a high fever and diarrhea and vomiting.
Yazmin stood in line for hours, begging the guards for help. When Mariee was finally seen, she was given antibiotics after a quick examination. Yazmin begged the clinicians to run additional tests and allow her daughter to stay in a more sanitary area until she recovered, but she was sent back into their overcrowded cell with the other sick children.
Shortly thereafter, the two were released from custody and allowed to stay with family in New Jersey until their asylum claim could be heard in court. Upon their arrival, Juárez rushed her daughter to the hospital where it became clear that her condition was far worse than diagnosed. Mariee died six weeks later, on the day celebrated as Mother’s Day in Guatemala.
Mariee and Yazmin's full story HERE.
The second soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Felipe Alonzo Gomez, Age 8,
Died Dec. 24, 2018, New Mexico
Felipe was excited to come to America. His father, Augustin, thought taking Felipe to the U.S. would give him more “opportunity,” and was focused on escaping the poverty of their hometown. Felipe hoped to have his own bicycle.
The boy’s mother, Catarina Alonzo Perez, said she spoke with her son the day before they arrived at the U.S. border. “He wasn’t sick on the way; he wasn’t sick here,” she said through her stepdaughter in the Mayan language known as Chuj.
His body was returned to Guatemala.
More of Felipe's story HERE.
The first soul in my En Memoriam project honoring asylum seekers who did not survive the rigors of the American border.
Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal-Maquin, age 7
of Raxruha, Guatemala.
Died Dec. 8, 2018, in New Mexico.
She and her father traveled 3,000 miles from Guatemala seeking a better life. She jumped when her father told her she could come with him to the U.S. She thought she might get her first toy, or learn to write. She got her first pair of shoes right before the trip. They were apprehended the night of Dec. 6 at the extremely remote port of entry at Antelope Wells, New Mexico, by Border Patrol agents, just 2 days before she died. Jakelin died of sepsis.
Jakelin's story HERE.