- A four-year-old boy weeps in the arms of a family member as he and others were apprehended by border patrol agents after illegally crossing into the U.S. border from Mexico near McAllen, Texas, U.S., May 2, 2018.
- Reuters/Adrees Latif
- A Honduran man reportedly took his own life inside a Texas jail last month, one day after he was separated from his wife and child at the US-Mexico border.
- His death came shortly after the Trump administration began implementing its “zero-tolerance” policy at the border, which criminally prosecutes migrants who cross illegally, and separates them from their children.
- Though the Trump administration has received considerable public backlash over the policy, officials have defended it as necessary to deter illegal immigration.
A distraught migrant father from Honduras who was separated from his wife and three-year-old son by immigration authorities at the US-Mexico border killed himself last month, The Washington Post reported.
Marco Antonio Muñoz, 39, took his own life inside a padded cell at a Texas jail on May 13, one day after he and his family requested asylum at the border and were taken into custody, separately, by Border Patrol agents, according to The Post.
The death came shortly after the Trump administration implemented its new “zero-tolerance” policy, which criminally prosecutes each person caught illegally crossing the border and separates them from their children.
The policy has garnered intense backlash in recent weeks, as reports of traumatized children and frantic parents have proliferated throughout the national media.
Trump administration officials have largely dismissed accusations that the family separation practice is cruel, or even inhumane.
President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, made waves last month when he brushed aside concerns about the children’s welfare by saying, “The children will be taken care of – put into foster care or whatever.”
Similarly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that family separation will prove an effective deterrent for would-be immigrants considering crossing the border illegally.
“If you cross the southwest border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you,” Sessions said in a speech to law-enforcement officials in Scottsdale, Arizona in May. “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law … If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”
Though it’s unclear exactly how many families have been separated since the new policy has been implemented, a Customs and Border Protection official told lawmakers at a hearing last week that 658 children were separated from 638 adults between May 6 and May 19.
“The guy lost his s—“
- Border patrol agents apprehend immigrants who illegally crossed the Mexico-U.S. border in the Rio Grande Valley sector, near McAllen, Texas, U.S., April 5, 2018.
- Reuters/Loren Elliot
Border Patrol agents told The Post that when Muñoz and his family arrived at a processing station to request asylum, they were told they would be separated, and Muñoz “lost it.”
“The guy lost his s—,” one agent said. “They had to use physical force to take the child out of his hands.”
Though Muñoz was initially placed in a chain-link detention cell that migrants are commonly held in, he soon began violently shaking the fencing and prompted Border Patrol agents to transfer him to a local jail.
“We had to get him out,” one agent told The Post. “Those cells are about as secure as a dog kennel. He could have hurt someone.”
Muñoz was reportedly so distraught, that on the journey to the local jail, he tried to run away twice, was captured, shackled, and handcuffed, and “yelled and kicked at the windows on the ride to the jail.”
The sheriff’s department’s report said that once Muñoz arrived at the jail at 9:40 p.m., guards checked on him once ever half hour.
In the morning, they saw him praying in the corner of his cell, according to The Post, but at 9:50, a guard saw him lying on the floor, unresponsive. Paramedics pronounced him dead, the sheriff’s report said.
One agent told The Post that Muñoz’s wife and son were later released from custody.