A Honduran father committed suicide in a Texas jail after being separated from his wife and child by U.S. immigration agents upon entering the country. He apparently suffered a breakdown and killed himself the day after being taken away from his family, according to the Washington Post.
According to the Starr County Sheriff's Office report first obtained by the post, Marco Antonio Muñoz, 39, was discovered in his cell by a guard on the morning of May 13 with "a small pool of blood by his nose (and) a piece of clothing twisted around his neck which was tied to the drainage location in the center of the cell." Medics confirmed the Honduran had no pulse and his electrocardiogram was "flatlined." The sheriff’s office marked the incident a "suicide in custody."
According to the Washington Post, the U.S. government had made no public statement regarding Muñoz’s suicide, and no local news agencies had reported on it.
The Washington office of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which regulated Border Patrol, had no comment on Muñoz’s death nor offered official information on the whereabouts of his wife and child. Starr County authorities refused to provide a copy of Muñoz’s autopsy report and did not respond to several phone messages requesting information about his cause of death to the Washington-based newspaper.
Border Patrol agents did say that Muñoz crossed into the United States with his wife and 3-year-old son on May 12 near the town of Granjeno, Texas just at the U.S.-Mexico border hoping to apply for asylum. As authorities told the family they would be separated, Muñoz "lost it," according to an anonymous agent.
"The guy lost his s---," the agent said. "They had to use physical force to take the child out of his hands."
U.S. immigration agencies under President Donald Trump increasingly began to separate immigrant families at the border since October, and seemingly formalized the practice in May when Vice President Jeff Sessions announced the government’s "zero-tolerance" policy in early May as part of an attempt to deter undocumented migrants from entering the country.
Since last year the government admits to taking away 1,358 kids from their parents upon reaching the border. Lee Gelernt, a veteran attorney with American Civil Liberties Union told the Intercept that number is more like 1,500 to 2,000 minors, many of whom are under the age of four years old. The United Nations called for an "immediate halt" to separating kids from parents at the border adding, "nothing normal about detaining children."
There’s also nothing normal about authorities using physical force against a parent trying to remain with his or her child.
After the border agents took Muñoz into custody he was placed in a chain-link cell, but he began punching the metal and shaking it violently, agents said so was taken that same day to what seemed to be the closest padded isolated cell located about 80 km away in Rio Grande City in Starr County. "He yelled and kicked at the windows on the ride to the jail," an agent said. He was considered a threat to jail staff and was put on observation every half hour. He was seen praying in a corner by agents hours before he took his own life.
The sheriff’s department said it attempted to contact Honduran authorities who could reclaim Muñoz’s body, but they received no answer at one consulate. Muñoz’s wife and son were later released from Border Patrol custody, according to a Border Patrol agent.
An agent familiar with what happened said he couldn’t understand why Muñoz "would choose to separate himself from his family forever" ending his own life.