Harrowing photos show Guatemalan mother begging Mexican soldiers to let her cross into U.S.
A photo taken by a Reuters photographer has gone viral for capturing the plight of a Central American migrant and her son, amid intense controversy surrounding the Trump administration's separation of migrant families.
Last Monday, photographer Jose Luis Gonzalez shot photos of the moment Ledy Perez begged a Mexican National Guard soldier to let her and her 6-year-old son Anthony Diaz cross into the United States. The mother and child had reportedly traveled nearly 1,500 miles from their home in Guatemala to the border city of Ciudad Juarez, where they were stopped by the soldier from entering the U.S.
"The woman begged and pleaded with the National Guard to let them cross ... she wanted to cross to give a better future" to her son, Gonzalez said.
In the viral photo, Perez is seen weeping and clutching her son in front of a soldier, who is dressed in desert fatigues and carrying an assault rifle. Subsequent photos show her hugging her son while seemingly appealing to two soldiers to let her cross.
Guatemalan mother tries to cross into U.S. with her son
Gonzalez said he caught the intense exchange while making his daily rounds alongside a riverbed of the Rio Grande that separates Cuidad Juarez — where he's from — and El Paso, Texas. National Guard troops had purportedly apprehended several migrants, including Perez and her son, that day.
"Her face, that's a small reflection of all migrants' suffering," said Gonzalez. "A lot of people judge migrants, ask why don't they stay in their country, why do they come here or why are they crossing into the United States. ... Every migrant has a story."
Following her nine-minute encounter with one of the soldiers, Perez allegedly made her move when the soldier glanced away. She reportedly lunged into the shrubs with her son and crossed the river, where they were met by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents on the other side.
"According to information from (U.S.) Border Patrol, the (Guatemalan) national crossed the border into the city of El Paso, Texas, at 8:10 p.m. (on Monday) and was detained," Tekandi Paniagua, the Guatemalan consul general in Del Rio, Texas, told Reuters. "The national and her son are in good condition and are being processed at the Border Patrol station in Lordsburg, New Mexico, while her case moves forward.”
“They have received medical attention and are being processed. Border Patrol will decide on their case and will inform us,” a Guatemalan foreign ministry representative added.
Gonzalez's viral photo was retweeted by former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who lambasted Mexico's government for mishandling migrants who pass through the country.
"What a pity, Mexico should never have accepted this," he wrote.
Still, Jesus Ramirez, a spokesman for current Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, maintained that the image was proof that the National Guard, which Lopez Obrador originally created to curb record-breaking homicide rates in Mexico, was doing its job.
"The Guard combats the crime of people trafficking and protects the human rights of the population and of the migrants crossing the country," Ramirez told Reuters.
President Trump had previously threatened to slap tariffs on Mexico if the country did not do more to rein in migrants from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala who pass through its borders. Since a June 7 agreement, Mexico has deployed National Guard troops to its southern border with Guatemala and instructed border cities to take in asylum seekers before they reach the U.S.
On Saturday, Guatemala also signed a deal with the U.S. Under the terms, Guatemalan authorities must stop migrants from El Salvador and Honduras who intend to pass through and offer them asylum first. In exchange, Guatemalan farmers will have easier access to American farms.