Things That Matter

The Victims From That Heartbreaking Photo Of A Father And Daughter Who Drowned Crossing Into The US Have Been Laid To Rest

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Photographs of Valeria, lying face down in the water with her little arm wrapped around the neck of her father, Oscar Alberto Martínez, broke hearts around the world and underscored the dangers that migrants undertake in trying to reach the US.

Now, their bodies have been laid to rest back in El Salvador.

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A man and his young daughter who drowned trying to cross into Texas were laid to their final rest Monday, a week after a heartbreaking image of their bodies floating in the Rio Grande circled the globe.

About 200 relatives and friends followed a hearse bearing the bodies of Óscar Martínez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria inside La Bermeja municipal cemetery in southern San Salvador. The ceremony was private, and journalists were not allowed access.

Many wore black and wept. They carried flowers and green palms, and some held signs bearing the logo of the Alianza soccer team favored by Óscar Martínez, who belonged to a group that supports the club. “For those who cheer you on from heaven,” one read.

Mourners stood with the family in their pain and time of need.

“I knew them. They are good people, and I can’t believe they died this way,” said Berta Padilla, who arrived earlier along with about 30 others on a bus from Altavista, the working-class city the Martínezes called home before they left in early April, headed for the United States. “We came from Altavista to be with Óscar’s family,” Padilla added in an interview with TIME. “We are with them in their pain.”

After the burial, relatives stayed behind at the gravesite to say a last goodbye, said family friend Reyna Moran. “This is very painful, most of all because of the baby. … They went in search of a better future, but everything came to an end in the river,” Moran said.

A collection of floral arrangements adorned the grave, including one from El Salvador’s president and first lady. Interior Minister Mario Durán was among those who attended.

The father and his daughter have been buried in a special section of the cemetery.

A municipal police officer said their graves were in a section of the cemetery named after Saint Óscar Romero, the San Salvador archbishop who devoted himself to helping the poor and was assassinated in 1980. Romero, who was canonized last year, is buried in the crypt of the city’s cathedral.

Before their heartbreaking deaths, the family had plans to make a new life for their daughter in the US.

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Martínez, 25, and his wife, Tania Vanessa Ávalos, 21, had been living with his mother and apparently felt that their salaries working at a pizza parlor and as a restaurant cashier would never be enough to purchase a modest home in their suburb of San Salvador.

That dream to save money for a home led the family to set out for the United States, according to Martínez’s mother, Rosa Ramírez.

The neighborhood they left behind in El Salvador is a humble bedroom community where most people live in low-rise, two-bedroom homes with a combination kitchen-living room-dining room, worth about $10,000-$15,000 each.

Meanwhile, El Salvador’s president has taken responsibility for the deaths.

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The president of El Salvador said his country was to blame for the deaths of a Salvadoran man and his daughter who drowned last week while trying to cross the Rio Grande into the United States, The New York Times reports.

“People don’t flee their homes because they want to,” President Nayib Bukele said Sunday during a news conference. “They flee their homes because they feel they have to.”

“We can blame any other country, but what about our blame? What country did they flee? Did they flee the United States?” Bukele said. “They fled El Salvador.”

READ: This Cartoonist’s Right To Free Speech Is Under Threat As He Loses His Job For A Cartoon About Trump’s Failed Immigration Policies

ICE Has Made It Clear That The Cruelty In Its Policies Is The Point, Meanwhile An 8th Person Has Died In Their Custody

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ICE Has Made It Clear That The Cruelty In Its Policies Is The Point, Meanwhile An 8th Person Has Died In Their Custody

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As the influx of undocumented immigrants continues to surge, there’s a great distinction that should be made about this group. There are currently hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants that are being detained in detention centers across the United States. There are also thousands of undocumented immigrants that are currently seeking asylum. Some are in the U.S. and others are waiting in Mexico under the Trump’s Administration “Remain in Mexico” policy.

So, understanding that there are undocumented immigrants both in the U.S. and in Mexico, the ones that are technically in the custody of the U.S. officials are the ones in this country and not a foreign one. We point this out in order for readers to understand the fatal casualties that occur in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and others that occur on the border (including those that die in the Rio Grande), and people that die or go missing in Mexico. The records for all of these deaths are separate. 

ICE is reporting that a 37-year-old undocumented man from Mexico died in their custody. He is the eighth person to die in ICE custody. 

According to a press release statement by ICE, Roberto Rodriguez-Espinoza was pronounced dead by medical staff at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Illinois on Sept. 10 at 9:35 p.m. The doctor that was treating Rodriguez-Espinoza said the preliminary cause of death as a subdural hematoma. A subdural hematoma “is a collection of blood outside the brain,” according to WebMD. “Subdural hematomas are usually caused by severe head injuries.”

Despite the preliminary cause of death, ICE is reporting that his death was caused by his alcoholism.

Here’s the ICE report: 

“On the day of his arrest, during his intake screening, Rodriguez-Espinoza admitted to daily consumption of alcohol. On Sept. 7, facility staff observed Rodriguez-Espinoza acting confused and the facility’s physician ordered Rodriguez-Espinoza transported to the Northwestern Medicine Woodstock Hospital emergency room in Woodstock, Illinois, for further evaluation due to his confusion and history of alcohol consumption. On Sept. 8, the hospital transferred him via ambulance to Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital, in Huntley, Illinois, where he was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage. He was then transferred to Central DuPage Hospital for a neurosurgery consult. Rodriguez-Espinoza failed to respond during a neurological exam performed upon arrival at Central DuPage and the attending neurosurgeon advised that Rodriguez-Espinoza was unlikely to survive the surgery.” 

ICE is also reporting that Rodriguez-Espinoza was allegedly a member of the Latin Kings gang. 

According to Latino USA, the Latin Kings gang first began in Chicago back in the 1950s. Other outlets report that the Latin Kings have gang members situated all over the country, and elsewhere. It is unclear whether Rodriguez-Espinoza was actually affiliated with that gang, but ICE is reporting that he had two convictions, one in 2016 on a burglary conviction and another in 2008 and was charged with a theft conviction. “ICE contacted the Mexican Consulate to inform them of Rodriguez-Espinoza’s medical status and to request assistance locating his next of kin. Mexican Consular officials subsequently advised that Rodriguez-Espinoza had no known next of kin.”

ICE is also stating that 8 deaths within the fiscal year (Oct. 2018-present) is not many compared to the number of detainees they have.

Courtesy of  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“On an annual basis, anywhere from 300,000 to 500,000 individuals are processed into ICE custody, many of whom have never had regular healthcare and suffer from severe acute and chronic medical conditions,” ICE stated. “The following chart [pictured above] shows that ICE is at a 6 year low regarding deaths on custody and the trend has been declining since 2004.”

However, as we previously noted in this article, ICE is not counting the overall number of undocumented deaths that occur at the border, or asylum seekers, or that of children. 

report that is public information on the ICE website shows six deaths since October. That number does not include the death of Rodriguez-Espinoza or that of Pedro Arriago-Santoya, who died on July 21 at the Stewart Detention Facility in Lumpkin, Georgia. ICE reports that Arriago-Santoya died of “cardio-pulmonary arrest secondary to multi-organ system failure, endocarditis, dilated cardiomyopathy with a low ejection fraction and respiratory failure.” 

Furthermore, an NBC News report from June shows that 24 undocumented immigrants died while in ICE Custody. So while ICE can say that this latest death is only the eighth death this fiscal year in ICE custody, that number is actually higher. 

ICE reports that they treat each person with the medical treatment needed and that each detainee has medical help available to them 24 hours a day. “Comprehensive medical care is provided to all individuals in ICE custody. Staffing for detainees includes registered nurses and licensed practical nurses, licensed mental health providers, mid-level providers like physician assistants and nurse practitioners, and a physician.”

READ: A New Documentary Is Showing An Untold And Heartbreaking Side Of The Undocumented Life In The US

Evelyn Hernandez Is Facing A Third Trial And Angered Protesters Used A New Way To Show Their Frustration

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Evelyn Hernandez Is Facing A Third Trial And Angered Protesters Used A New Way To Show Their Frustration

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There are rising tensions in El Salvador as activists are protesting the attorney general’s decision to seek a third trial for a woman accused of killing her stillborn son. The woman, Evelyn Hernandez, was exonerated in an August retrial after an earlier judgment found her guilty of killing her stillborn son and sentenced her to 30 years behind bars. Hernandez, 21, was found innocent after the judge said there was not enough evidence to convict her of the crime. 

The issue of abortion has always been a widely-debated and divisive topic in conservative El Salvador where abortion is illegal. Many women in the country have been prosecuted for attempting abortions even in dire medical situations. Activists look at Hernandez’s case as an example of an unjust system targeting her due to her limited financial status. 

 “We do not want Evelyn to be viewed as a criminal and persecuted,” Claribel Ayala, a protester outside the attorney general’s office in El Salvador told Reuters. “We’re going to stand with her until justice is done.”

While activists see Hernandez’s case as a trial against women rights, prosecutors are looking at her as a criminal.

Credit: @NARAL / Twitter 

Activists dressed in clown attire took to the streets of El Salvador this week to voice their disapproval of the news that attorney general Raul Melara would be seeking a third trial in Hernandez’s case. Many of them threw confetti-filled eggs at his office and even painted his door red with paint. Melara acknowledges their anger but sees the case with a different lens.  

“There are groups that have a big interest in seeing this as persecution against poverty, that this woman is being targeted because she had an emergency outside the hospital, but the proof is overwhelming and shows this isn’t the case,” Melara told reporters.

Hernandez’s release from prison was viewed as a victory for women rights. 

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Hernandez said she was raped by a gang member and was unaware of her pregnancy until just before delivering a stillborn son back in 2016. She was found on her bathroom floor covered with blood and would be taken to an emergency room by her mother and a neighbor. When doctors examined her they noted that there were visible signs of delivery but found no baby. They reported Hernandez to local authorities and would later find her newborn dead inside of a septic tank.

She’s been convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for the alleged killing of her child. Prosecutors said that she had purposely induced abortion only to leave the newborn to die. Hernandez wound up only serving 33 months out of her original 30-year sentence before being released in February. 

This was due to an appeal before the Supreme Court who said that Hernandez should be released due the original conviction being based on prejudice and insufficient evidence. The acquittal was looked at as a huge victory for women’s rights not only in El Salvador but globally. 

“It was tough to be locked up, especially when I was innocent,” Hernandez said the day she was released. “There are others who are still locked up and I hope they are freed soon.”

Hernandez has maintained her innocence from the start that she had no knowledge of being pregnant. Now prosecutors are looking at a third trial to convict her of killing her newborn child. 

Credit: @marlasirens / Twitter

The attorney general is seeking to convict Hernandez of murder even after being released from prison. While many see Hernandez as the true victim in this ordeal, prosecutors see things differently.  

“As Attorney General of the Republic, we are responsible for the support and accompaniment of women victims in any crime and in any of its modalities, but, in the case of Evelyn Hernández, there are no elements to consider her a victim of any fact, on the contrary, the only victim is her son,” prosecutors said in a statement . “This appeal is the manifestation of the legal protection of … the life of a helpless being who depended absolutely on the care of his mother, who caused his death.”

Hernandez’s legal team is fighting back against these claims saying that the attempt at a retrial is a waste of resources that could be used to serve more important issues. 

“We expected this persecution against Evelyn to stop,” one of her lawyers, Elizabeth Deras, told BuzzFeed News. “Instead, they are spending the state’s resources unnecessarily. Resources that could be used to fight corruption.”

As of now, the request for a new trial must be assessed by a different court before it can proceed legally. The prosecution is looking to sentence Hernandez to 40 years in prison.  

READ: These Are Our Favorite Fast Foods You Can Get In Latin America But Not In The US, Dos Por Favor!