Massachusetts: Illegal Immigrant Blames 'Broken System' for Husband's Death
Immigration; Posted on: 2007-11-02 11:40:36 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
After his second deportation to Guatemala, Ricardo Gomez Garcia made yet another perilous journey across the U.S. border to reunite with his wife and autistic son following their six-month separation.
By Becky W. Evans
Standard-Times staff writer
Within 24 hours of arriving home to his city apartment, the 40-year-old illegal immigrant died at St. Luke's Hospital.
"His needs were not looked after in El Paso," said Juana, his wife of 20 years.
(The Standard-Times is using a pseudonym for Mr. Garcia's wife to protect the undocumented worker from possible repercussions by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Juana, a Mayan woman from Guatemala, spoke to a reporter in Spanish through an interpreter.)
ICE removed Mr. Garcia from the country on Aug. 30, agency spokesman Mike Gilhooly said.
After visiting with family members in Guatemala, Mr. Garcia hired a "coyote," or local guide, for $5,000 and began his trip north on Oct. 10, Juana said.
He arrived in this city early Sunday morning and was greeted by Juana and the couple's 4-year-old son, Mauricio. The child is a U.S. citizen who has been diagnosed with autism.
"He was very, very happy to see his son and play with him," Juana said.
The 36-year-old said her husband developed a fever that evening and complained of a headache and sore throat.
When his condition worsened, family members called an ambulance. Mr. Garcia died in the St. Luke's emergency room around 3 a.m. Monday, Juana said.
Terrel Harris, spokesman for the state Executive Office of Public Safety, said an autopsy showed the cause of Mr. Garcia's death was "acute airway obstruction" and the manner was "natural."
Juana said she believes her husband's death may be tied to health problems he developed while living at the El Paso detention center.
"I believe it was his time in jail," she said.
She said her husband was healthy while working double shifts at the Bianco factory, where he made backpacks and other military equipment for U.S. troops. After being sent to Texas, he suffered headaches and a toothache from the stress of being jobless and separated from his family, she said.
Juana accused doctors at the detention center of waiting too long to treat her husband and not giving him proper medication.
Mr. Gilhooly, the ICE spokesman, said the agency "goes to great lengths to provide medical care to all individuals in ICE custody.
"We spend over $98 million in medical treatment for individuals in our custody and work with partners in our public health service to provide excellent medical care," he said.
Mr. Gilhooly was unable to provide The Standard-Times with any information regarding medical treatment Mr. Garcia may have received while in custody at the El Paso facility. He said he could not comment on Mr. Garcia's death because it occurred nearly two months after he had been deported to Guatemala.
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