Things That Matter

Honduran Father Whose 13-Year-Old Daughter Committed Suicide After He Wasn’t Granted Asylum Wants Her To “Help Another Person Live”

Heydi Gámez García, 13, took her life on July 2nd after her father’s asylum request was denied for the third time. Heydi’s father, Manuel Gámez, sent her to the U.S. after his father was gunned down by MS-13 for refusing to pay a “war tax” to the gang. He didn’t expect that Heydi would be granted asylum, but that he would be deported.

Manuel certainly didn’t envision that his goodbye hug and kiss four years ago would be the last time he would hug and kiss his daughter while she was still alive.

The Gámaz family was broken by MS-13 and failed again by the U.S. immigration system.

Credit: @amy_baker22 / Twitter

Heydi’s mother walked out on her and her dad when she was less than two months old. By the time Heydi was a year old, Manuel left for New York as an undocumented immigrant to make money to send back home to his daughter. After his father was killed by MS-13, and his mother’s health started failing, he worried about who would care for Heydi and his younger sister, Zoila.

Manuel’s sister was granted asylum and cared for Heydi in his absence in New York.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

A year after his father’s death, he sent Heydi, Zoila and his brother to the U.S. Heydi and Zoila were granted asylum. Heydi learned English within a year and started teaching her father, via phone calls, how to correctly pronounce English words. They spoke every day, always asking when he’d come.

After two failed attempts to gain asylum, Heydi lost hope for being reunited and started cutting herself.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

He never wanted to make promises he couldn’t keep, like being there for her quinceañera. Heydi watched her classmates complain about their parents’ visiting their school and fell into a depression. In December, she was brought to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation after cutting her wrist at school. She was seeing a therapist until two months before her suicide.

“Please forgive me for failing you,” Manuel wants to tell his daughter.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there… I never meant to leave you,” he says to her. Heydi was Manuel’s only child. Heydi’s aunt is coping with impossible guilt. She told CNN, “I was supposed to be protecting her. I would never send her to Honduras. But I never thought something bad would happen to her here.”

Manuel was released on a two week ‘humanitarian’ visit to release Heydi from life support.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

He finally got to hold her hand and comfort her as she left this life behind. “We love you,” he whispered to her. “Don’t leave us.”

The last thing Heydi told anyone was that she lost hope in being reunited with her father.

Credit: @MaryJaneKnows / Twitter

She was crying as she told her aunt that she feels hopeless and that one day, she’ll become a lawyer to help her dad’s case. She then said she wanted to be alone and was found two hours later in a closet. She didn’t leave a note.

She was declared brain dead a week later at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens.

Dr. Charles Schleien told CNN that she was in a “neurologically devastated state” upon arrival with “no hope for recovery.” He went on to disclose that the Gámaz family “chose to turn tragedy into the gift of life. Heydi is an organ donor and her final act will be to save others.”

The mental health impacts of family separation at our borders can only be told one story at a time.

Credit: @apbenven / Twitter

Every story is important. Every life lost to policies that don’t incorporate the most visceral human desires, like growing up with your father by your side, is one life too many. 

What on earth are we doing?

Credit: @JoeGould50 / Twitter

Update:

On July 18, Heydi was taken off life support. Her family told The New York Times they decided to donate her organs. “She was so young, so healthy, maybe she can live in another person, she can help another person live,” her father told The Times.

These 13 Latina-Inspired Gifts Will Make Your Mom Feel So Seen This Holiday Season

Culture

These 13 Latina-Inspired Gifts Will Make Your Mom Feel So Seen This Holiday Season

mitú

Finding the perfect gift for mom is always a challenge, isn’t it? You may already have ideas for gifts to give your siblings, or friends, or even your abuelos, but moms are tough to shop for. That’s why we’re thinking, why not gift her something fun and clever? It’s the experiences that we remember the most, so maybe a bland gift won’t be as memorable as that hilarious mug you got her that Christmas of 2019. So have a read below to find some comical and clever presents for your mamita. Because Latinos don’t give basic gifts, we won’t let you down. 

‘Mami’ necklace

Nothing sweeter, prettier or more classic, than gifting mom a piece of jewelry —or wait— we can think of something sweeter; a piece of jewelry with the word mami on it. “Mom” just doesn’t quite describe the head of a Latino family, the only term that can do her justice is mami or mamita or ‘her majesty… just saying. 

‘La Jefa’ apron

Sorry, this apron is for boss Latinas only*. If you are not one, please hit the back button on your browser immediately. Mom is the ultimate jefa. She runs the house, she runs the family, she raised you, for God’s sake —is there anything the woman can’t do? Get her the apron, she deserves it. 

‘Andale Por Pendeja’ t-shirt

If your mom is anything like mine, or any other mom on the planet, saying “I told you so” doesn’t quite cut it, and sometimes she might want to get her point across with just a smidge of judgment. Thankfully, mitú made this Ándale Por Pendeja Tee for such occasions! 

Mom’s Favorite Candle Set

You know who would love this Latino-inspired Candle Collection? Your mom. No, really. She’d love this refreshingly minty Sana Sana candle, or perhaps the soapy fragrance of this Te Boté one? And who could ever resist the iconic (yet triggering) Saturday morning scent of Fabulosa? No one, that’s who!

‘Poderosa’ hoop earrings

Nothing but the best for your queen. These hoops are 14 karat gold plated brass, and you know she deserves them. Because we’ve never met a more poderosa woman than a madre de familia. 

‘Comadres’ tee

Your mom was your very first comadre before you even made friends. Remind her about your special bond with this ‘Comadres’ tee, she’ll be moved to tears, guaranteed.

‘World’s best suegra’

Surprise your suegra with this mug, she hugs like a mother and loves like a friend so she deserves the best!! Ideal for the perfect mom-in-law. 

‘Te Calmas o Te Calmo’ chanclas

Who knew the most triggering of phrases would make a badass pair of chanclas? This Te Calmas O Te Calmo chanclas are not only fashionable, but subtly threatening to anyone who grew up in a Latino household, and it makes the perfect phrase for that mom who’s always keeping you in check. Help make her life easier by gifting her some chanclas with her signature phrase printed on it. You’re welcome. 

‘La Jefa’ iPhone case

Mom has some important phone calls to make, so let her make them in style. Help her flaunt her endless poder every time she takes out her phone. 

Concha Fleece Blanket

Carbs are the devil, yes, but mom’s precious conchas and cafecito definitely don’t count! Help mami stay warm in the winter with this Concha Fleece Blanket and enjoy whatever sweet dreams may come. And maybe make her a damn coffee once in a while. 

‘House Favorite’ dog bandana

Let’s be real here. The true golden child of your house is the dog. You know it, your siblings know it, and your mom knows it, too. Getting your mom’s beloved doggo a present equals to getting a present for the woman herself! So we made this House Favorite Dog Bandana for all of mom’s good boys and good girls out there.

‘Hermosa’ hoops

There will never be a more hermosa woman in your life. Mom deserves these hoops because she’s a hardworking queen and a role model, and she’s nothing but ‘hermosa’ every day, even on Sundays, when she’s doing la limpieza in her flashiest outfits.

‘Pa qué highlighter’ Makeup bag

This little cosmetics bag would be a lifesaver for the makeup obsessed mom. Remind that makeup queen that she doesn’t need any highlighter with that brown shine of hers. This vegan leather bag is perfect for holding all of mami’s day-to-day essentials. Take this with you and shine.

READ: These Latino Holiday Gifts Are Anything But Basic

Rikers Guards Suspended For Allegedly Ignoring Teen Inmate As He Committed Suicide

Things That Matter

Rikers Guards Suspended For Allegedly Ignoring Teen Inmate As He Committed Suicide

mitchjackson / Instagram

Four New York City Rikers Island correction officers, including a captain, have been suspended for knowingly failing to intervene in a teen detainee’s suicide attempt for seven minutes. The night before Thanksgiving, Nicholas Feliciano, 18, was jumped by seven other inmates and left with a gash on his face. Instead of taking him to the infirmary, guards placed him in a holding cell where he hung himself from a pipe with his shirt. Whistleblowers from the prison have told The New York Times that one guard actually opened Feliciano’s cell door to find him hanging from the pipe, closed the door, and walked away. A witness told The New York Times that, after Feliciano stepped off the toilet partition, he changed his mind and tried to find the partition to free himself from the makeshift noose. Feliciano hung for seven minutes without any intervention, and it was more than a half-hour before paramedics were able to whisk him away from the prison complex. 

Feliciano was taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was put into an induced coma on Tuesday. He has yet to show signs of brain activity.

At first, the Department of Corrections wouldn’t allow Feliciano’s family to visit him in the hospital.

CREDIT: LEGAL AID SOCIETY

The Legal Aid Society, which has taken up Feliciano’s case, penned a letter to the DOC to request charges against the teen be dropped. “This is unacceptable. He poses no security risk and needs his family at his bedside at this critical time,” the letter reads. According to Legal Aid Society, the family had to wait to be cleared by DOC to visit him, were not allowed to bring anything inside his hospital room, or even photograph him. 

In response, the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision canceled Feliciano’s parole warrant.

CREDIT: @LEGALAIDNYC / TWITTER

That meant that Feliciano was no longer in the custody of the state, and his family was free to visit him at their leisure. “We are relieved that the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision canceled the parole warrant pending against Nicholas Feliciano, our client who is still battling for his life at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens,” reads a statement from The Legal Aid Society. The organization maintains that the act is too little too late for the much more serious “concerns over the New York City Department of Correction’s failure to properly screen and address Mr. Feliciano’s mental health issues, which were known to the City at the time of his remand,” the statement continues. 

Feliciano was charged with robbery, but because of his age, the court gave him a short sentence and kept his criminal record sealed. Within weeks of his release, Feliciano had violated his parole by testing positive for drugs, skipping mandated programs, attempting to purchase a gun, and traveling past state lines to visit a girlfriend. When Feliciano arrived at his parole meeting, he was taken into custody and scheduled to be arraigned more than a month later. The Legal Aid Society of New York is using Feliciano as a tragic example for “the need for Albany to enact comprehensive parole reform legislation immediately next session to address cases like Nicholas’, where the alleged violation of parole does not rise to the level of a new criminal charge.”

Feliciano has a history of mental illness, including suicide attempts, says the Legal Aid Society. 

CREDIT: @RENTALSINMIAMI / TWITTER

According to The New York Times’s report, Feliciano was taken out of the general population holding area after getting into a fight in order to get him medical attention. He waited for six hours in a holding cell without medical attention. An hour before he attempted suicide, he was taken out of a two-person cell and placed in a cell by himself. An hour and a half later, he was hanging off a pipe while correction officers stood by. An off-duty captain saw closed-circuit surveillance footage of Feliciano hanging and rushed to take him down. According to The New York Times, an official said Feliciano didn’t have a pulse for two minutes. 

In response, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, “The people in our jails are human beings. Their well-being is our responsibility. These allegations are deeply troubling. The 3 officers and their supervisor have been suspended and an investigation is underway. We’re taking immediate action.” The New York City Council voted October 17 to close Rikers prison complex and the chapter on its disturbing human rights violations.

READ: NYC Determines Layleen Polanco’s Death Might Have Had To Do With Her State In Solitary Confinement