Mother of migrant child who died thought son would help with US entry

The mother of an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy who died in U.S. custody this week says that her son traveled with her husband into the U.S. in order to better their family's chances of being approved to stay in the U.S.

Catarina Alonzo told Reuters in an interview that other migrants with children were able to cross into the U.S. after being held in detention for a month or more at a time, which many migrants see as the easiest way to make it into the United States.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Lots of them have gone with children and managed to cross, even if they’re held for a month or two. But they always manage to get across easily,” Alonzo said, according to Reuters.

A spokeswoman for Guatemala's foreign ministry added that many "coyotes," or those who profit by smuggling migrants into the U.S., have argued that President TrumpDonald John TrumpOvernight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal Centrist efforts to convince Trump to end shutdown falter Cardi B expresses solidarity with federal workers not getting paid MORE's plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border will hamper future smuggling efforts, forcing many migrants to attempt the journey now.

“According to interviews [with migrants], the coyotes are saying ‘it’s now or never’ because the wall is going to be built, and it won’t be possible to cross,” the spokeswoman told Reuters.

Agustin Gomez, the boy's father, remains in U.S. custody. He has two brothers currently living in the U.S. whom he was hoping to reach following his and his son's crossings.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have yet to offer an official cause for the boy's death, prompting criticism from Democratic lawmakers and other opponents of the president's zero tolerance immigration policies.

The boy died on Christmas Eve, and his father has argued that he did not have symptoms before arriving in CBP custody.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenOn The Money: Pelosi threatens State of the Union address over shutdown | Trump admin, GOP cry foul | Waters lays out financial services agenda | Senate protects Trump sanctions rollback Pelosi pulls State of the Union surprise on Trump Overnight Defense: Four Americans killed in Syria suicide attack | State of the Union becomes latest shutdown flashpoint | Missile defense review on track for Thursday release MORE is expected to visit the border and Homeland Security facilities in the area in coming days following a statement released concerning the boy's death from CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan on Tuesday.

“This is a tragic loss. On behalf of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, our deepest sympathies go out to the family," McAleenan said.