Father of dead migrant kid, 8, claims he heard rumors they can cross the border, family says
Rumors of safe passage by traveling with children led to the death of eight-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo.
Fox News reported the inside story from the boy's stepsister, Catarina Gomez Lucas. On Wednesday, she explained what the main reason was for Felipe's journey.
The boy's father, Augustin Gomez, was apparently taking advantage of "the opportunity" to legally enter the country. Sadly, it only led to the death of his son on Christmas Eve.
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Lucas told the Associated Press:
"We heard rumors that they could pass (into the United States). They said they could pass with the children."
Lucas refused to reveal who spread the rumors. She also did not disclose exactly how the father and son attained transportation. They would have had to travel from Yalambojoch in Huehuetenango province to the Mexican border.
Their community is afflicted by poverty and filled with refugees. It is the result of Guatemala's 1960-1966 civil war, a bloody undertaking back then.
Lucas said that the boy was happy to leave with his father. He "always wanted a bicycle." So they set off with clothes, shoes, and very little money.
Catarina Alonzo Perez is the boy's mother. She confirmed that Felipe was all well before and during his trip. She spoke in Chuj, a Mayan language.
"He wasn't sick on the way; he wasn't sick here."
On December 23, Felipe began coughing, vomiting, and experiencing a fever. By that time, he and his father were at the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Doctors diagnosed him with a "common cold." Around 11:50 p.m. on Christmas Eve, he passed away.
The family had not heard from them since December 18. On December 25, Gomez called and told them the boy died.
"[Gomez] told us that (Felipe) was fine all day, that he was playing with other children. But then he said he felt bad and his stomach ached."
Gomez also said this his son told him not to cry because he "was not going to get better."
Felipe is the second child to die in the custody of the U.S. this month. Jakelin Caal, seven, also passed on December 8 after traveling with her father.
Her body was returned to Guatemala on December 23. It was transported in a white coffin. She reportedly died of sepsis, in addition to dehydration as many believed.
The girl's father, Nery Caal, received most of the blame for the child's death. Others attacked the border patrol agents.
Following the two deaths, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen insisted that "extraordinary protective measures" would be put in place. This will involve a "more thorough" medical screening for children.
Gomez's motivation to travel with his child was not unfounded. There is somewhat of a "loophole" in the law. Anti-trafficking legislation from 2008 prevents Central American children from immediate deportation.
Gomez, who was drowning in debt when he left home, is under detainment at the Border Patrol according to the Guatemala consul Oscar Padilla.
He worked in temporary farming and coffee harvesting jobs that gave him $6 a day before he set out for a better life.
It is unclear as to the whereabouts of the boy's body. As for Caal, her funeral was held on Christmas day. Her mother was too distraught to attend.
They say a mother should never have to bury her child. We hope that there are no more deaths at the border in the coming year and after.