A Honduran father separated from his family at the U.S.-Mexico border killed himself in his cell the day after he arrived in the U.S.
The man was attempting to cross the Rio Grande into the U.S. and seek asylum when Texas border patrol officers separated him from his wife and 3-year-old child and transferred him to a Texas jail, where he killed himself, according to Border Patrol agents and an incident report filed by sheriff’s deputies obtained by the Washington Post on Saturday.
Marco Antonio Muñoz, 39, crossed the Rio Grande into Texas on May 12 with his family, and they were soon after taken into custody. They then arrived at a processing station near McAllen, Texas, where they indicated they wanted to apply for asylum, fleeing violence in Honduras. That’s when Border Patrol agents separated the family, and Muñoz “lost it,” one agent told the Post.
“The guy lost his shit,” the agent told the paper. “They had to use physical force to take the child out of his hands.”
Muñoz was placed in a chain-link detention cell but was violently punching and shaking the cage, which one agent described as “about as secure as a dog kennel.” So Border Patrol moved Muñoz to the Starr County Jail in Rio Grande City 40 miles away. He attempted to escape multiple times but to no avail. He was booked into the jail at 9:40 p.m. and had to be placed in a padded isolation cell, which was equipped with a camera, according to the AP.
Guards told the Post they checked on Muñoz every 30 minutes, routinely watching the father praying in the corner of his cell. The next morning, on May 13 slightly before 10 a.m., Muñoz was found on the floor of his cell in a pool of blood. He had an item of clothing twisted around his neck, and the incident was recorded as a “suicide in custody,” according to Starr County sheriff’s deputies records obtained by the Post.
Muñoz’s death occurred just weeks after the Trump administration began implementing a “zero-tolerance” policy on illegal migration. The goal of the policy is to punish people trying to enter the country illegally — and, as a result, illegal migrant adults are immediately arrested and placed in detention without their children.
And it isn’t always communicated well.
A public defender in McAllen told the Boston Globe that some migrants are told their kids are going to be taken away briefly to bathe, and then “hours later, it dawns on them that their children aren't coming back.”
Homeland Security officials told the Post that they are doing more to explain the separation process to parents, but the Trump administration is showing no signs that it will slow down on separating families.
“If people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them,” Sessions said in a radio interview last week. “We’ve got to get this message out. You’re not given immunity. You have to, you will be prosecuted if you … come illegally. And if you bring children, you’ll still be prosecuted.”