Father of 8-Year-Old Migrant Who Died Brought Boy for Easier US Entry

Zachary Stieber
The father of the 8-year-old migrant who died on Dec. 25 took the boy with him on the dangerous trek from Guatemala to the United States because he heard a rumor that it would help him enter the country.

“We heard rumors that they could pass (into the United States). They said they could pass with the children,” Catarina Gomez Lucas, the dead boy’s 21-year-old stepsister, told the Associated Press.

So Agustin Gomez grabbed his son Felipe and set out, despite the numerous dangers in such a journey for anyone, much less a child.

The description of the family’s reasons for leaving Guatemala to try to enter the United States was one of escaping poverty, which is not a recognized reason for granting asylum in the country. The family did not describe persecution or any of the other scenarios that could lead to a legitimate claim of asylum.

Felipe “always wanted a bicycle,” Lucas said, and the family thought he would be better off in the United States. She said that Gomez was deep in debt and took out a loan to travel to America.

Catarina Alonzo, Gomez’s wife, confirmed that the reason Gomez took his son was to have an easier entry into the United States.

“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,” she told Reuters.

Neither the Associated Press nor Reuters noted that the family would not qualify for asylum, a key omission in many news stories about the migrants trying to enter the United States.

The number of migrants claiming asylum has skyrocketed in recent years, leading to a backlog of more than 800,000 cases. Many of the claims don’t hold up in the end.

While 89 percent of asylum-seekers from Central America pass an initial credible-fear screening at the border, only 9 percent are subsequently granted asylum by an immigration judge, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Felipe Gomez Alonzo, the 8-year-old Guatemalan boy who died in New Mexico in a file photo near Laguna Brava in Yalambojoch, Guatemala, on Dec. 25, 2018. (Catarina Gomez via AP)
Felipe Gomez Alonzo, the 8-year-old Guatemalan boy who died in New Mexico in a file photo near Laguna Brava in Yalambojoch, Guatemala, on Dec. 25, 2018. (Catarina Gomez via AP)
More than 100,000 people were apprehended for illegally crossing into the United States in October and November alone, a border crisis.

Felipe Gomez, the 8-year-old, died on Dec. 24 at a medical center in New Mexico. He was treated at the hospital earlier in the day and released but was re-admitted several hours later.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said that all migrant children were checked after the death, which followed the death of a 7-year-old Guatemalan migrant, and that she would be traveling to the border to see first-hand the medical screenings and conditions at Border Patrol stations.
Border Patrol said this week that agents would conduct medical checks on all illegal children following the deaths.
Nielsen said in a statement that the immigration system currently rewards parents and other adults from having children with them when crossing into the United States.

“This changing dynamic is the direct result of obvious draw factors: an immigration system that rewards parents for sending their children across the border alone, a system that prevents parents who bring their children on a dangerous and illegal journey from facing consequences for their actions, an asylum process that is not able to quickly help those who qualify for asylum, a system that encourages fraudulent claims, and a system that encourages bad actors to coach aliens into making frivolous claims,” she said.

“The bottom line is that 9 out 10 asylum claims are rejected by a federal immigration judge.”

She noted that before the two recent migrant children deaths, there had been no migrant children passing away in Border Patrol custody in more than a decade.