A 13-year-old girl from Honduras hanged herself after the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement rejected her father’s asylum claim three times.
Heydi Gámez García was taken to hospital after she was found having tried to take her own life earlier this month but she was declared brain dead. On Thursday evening (July 18) her father, Manuel Gámez, and his sisters made the incredibly tough decision to take the teenager off life support.
Manuel had not seen his daughter in four years since he sent her away from their violent hometown in Honduras, fearing for his daughter’s safety after her grandfather was gunned down by MS-13 gang members.
The 34-year-old tried a number of times to join Heydi in the US however he kept getting rebuffed by immigration authorities.
According to CNN the 13-year-old had been despondent about being separated from her father and tragically their reunion came too late, as the pair were only brought back together when immigration officials released the father from a Houston detention centre last week on a 14-day humanitarian parole ‘to tend to the matters of his daughter’s passing’.
“She was so young, so healthy, maybe she can live on in another person, she can help another person live,” her father, Manuel Gámez, said about the decision. They plan to hold a funeral service for Heydi in the coming days, before Mr. Gámez returns to ICE detention. 2/2
— Christina Goldbaum (@cegoldbaum) July 19, 2019
Manuel spoke to the MailOnline about his daughter’s passing, saying:
I am very sad, really depressed. The hardest moments are coming.
Family lawyer Anibal Romero blamed the Trump administrations asylum stance as one of the main reasons why Heydi tried to end her life.
Words matter, tweets matter. When the president threatens to deport millions of people, it really causes anxiety, causes fear, especially in children who are afraid of losing their parents.
Politicians should be very careful with the words that are used. It doesn’t matter that it’s on social networks. Today it’s Heydi, tomorrow it will be someone else.
CNN report Heydi’s mother walked out on the family when she was less than two months old and they have not seen her since.
When Heydi was about one year old, her father Manuel moved to New York as an undocumented immigrant, leaving Heydi behind with his parents in Honduras. He worked for several years on Long Island, where his sister Jessica had settled after being granted asylum, but was forced to return in 2014 after his father was killed.
Manuel sent Heydi to the US the following year and the young girl was granted asylum in June 2016. The father crossed the US-Mexico border three times in an attempt to join his daughter.
The first two times he was detained and sent back to Honduras. The third time was just last month and he told his daughter he was on the way, however Manuel’s route to Heydi was blocked once again.
The teenager’s relatives say every failed attempt by her father to reach the US seemed to plunge Heydi into a deeper depression. Heydi’s aunt Jessica Gámez says the young girl talked about returning to Honduras to be with her father, saying her ‘life had no meaning’ without him.
In early July, Heydi reportedly broke down in tears to her aunt Zoila Gámez and said she no longer believed the stories about being reunited with her father. She then said she wanted to be alone and two hours later Zoila discovered her niece had tried to take her own life.
The family plan to bury Heydi early next week in a Long Island cemetery before Manuel flies back to turn himself in.
Her father, Manuel Gámez, was only allowed by the Trump Admin to come after Heydi had attempted suicide and been declared brain dead.
“All my dreams are in her heart. All of them are gone with her.”
— Hispanic Caucus (@HispanicCaucus) July 18, 2019
Romero hopes immigration officials would grant him a chance to prove his asylum case.
This is a man who is completely emotionally destroyed, and locking him in a prison would kill him. Apart from that, if the government deported him, his life is at risk in Honduras and a tragedy could become another tragedy.
Our thoughts are with Heydi’s family, and all those who are suffering while trying to seek asylum, at this difficult time.
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677.
Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.