June 9, 2018, days after the suicides of famous designer Kate Spade, and chef and travel show host Anthony Bourdain, it was reported that an immigrant attempting to cross the U.S. border and separated from his family had killed himself in a jail cell in Texas.
Of course his death did not make any major TV newscasts or trend on social media, unlike the suicides of Spade and Bourdain. Luckily, The Washington Post reported the story, which would have otherwise gone ignored because it was not publicly disclosed by the Department of Homeland Security, even though it occurred in May 2018.
According to a copy of a sheriff’s department report obtained by The Washington Post, Marco Antonio Muñoz, a 39-year-old Honduran immigrant, was found on the floor of his cell May 13, 2018, in a pool of blood with an item of clothing twisted around his neck. Starr County sheriff’s deputies recorded the incident as a “suicide in custody.”
According to the Post, quoting Border Patrol agents, Muñoz crossed the Rio Grande with his wife and 3-year-old son May 12 near the tiny town of Granjeno, Texas.
Soon after he and his family were taken into custody, they arrived at a processing station in nearby McAllen and said they wanted to apply for asylum. But because of the new Donald Trump policy of separating families, Border Patrol agents told the family they would be separated.
Thats when Muñoz lost it, according to one agent the Post quoted, who told the paper they “had to use physical force to take the child out of his hands.”
A day later, Muñoz was dead from apparent suicide. He was the first immigrant to kill himself after being separated from his family since the horrendously racist and heart-breaking Trump policy.
Muñozs death comes months after an undocumented immigrant in Southern California committed suicide in the San Fernando Valley and more than a year after a Nicaraguan man, in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, hanged himself in his cell at the Adelanto Detention Facility in Adelanto, Calif.
Feb. 9, 2018, Luis Castaneda, a 40-year-old tattoo artist, fatally shot himself week over fears that he would be deported back to his native Guatemala, his mother told Fox LA.
And last March 22, 2017, Osmar Epifanio Gonzalez-Gadba, was found hanging in his cell where he had been detained for three months awaiting deportation and died at a hospital later.
These incidents are just reported cases. We are not sure how many cases have gone unreported.
As a 2017 report by Human Rights Watch and Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement also noted, serious lapses in mental health care at immigration detention centers across the U.S. has led to premature and preventable deaths.
According to the joint report, immigrants detained in private and public centers are continually exposed to medical abuse and neglect. In some cases, the lack of adequate care, as well as poor ICE oversight, has led to the premature and preventable deaths of detained immigrants, the report charges.
And that is just immigrants in ICE custody.
In the current anti-immigrant atmosphere, created by Trump, the stress many undocumented immigrants and even legal immigrants with petty criminal records are going through at just the thought of arrest, detention and deportation, is enough for many to spiral into depression and consider suicide or go through with it.
With the suicide rates rising in nearly every state, according to the latest Vital Signs report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many immigrants might very well be among the lost as well.
Trump has created a terror state for immigrants—both legal and undocumented—much like his “hero” Andrew Jackson created for Native-Americans.
But suicide should not be considered as an option in the battle to live in Trump’s America. Please consider prayer, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for confidential support 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 or talk to your priest, pastor or friend or family member if you are entertaining thoughts of suicide.
Remember, when you think your life is bad, there is always someone who is going through much worse. Stay prayed up and believe although things might look dark now, the light always comes bursting through.
The writer is CMO at Hard Beat Communications, Inc. which owns the brands NewsAmericasNow, CaribPRWire and InvestCaribbeanNow.