'Don't Let Them Send Me Back': Stopped Inches From US Border After 1,500 Mile Journey, Viral Photos Show Mother's Plea for Son's Life

Immigrant rights advocates pointed to a photo essay by a Reuters photojournalist showing a Guatemalan mother and child begging to be allowed into the U.S., as visual evidence of asylum seekers’ desperation to enter the country.

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Photographer Jose Luis Gonzalez took a series of photos of Lety Perez and her son, Anthony, during a nine-minute interaction with an armed Mexican National Guard soldier after the mother and child had traveled 1,500 miles from their home country and come within a few feet of the United States.

“Her face, that’s a small reflection of all migrants’ suffering.”
—Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters“Let me pass, I beg of you,” Perez said in a video published by the Mexican newspaper El Universal. “Don’t let them send me back. I just want to give my son a better life.”

“See the mother’s desperation,” the immigrant rights group RAICES implored viewers of the photos and video, in a tweet. “And understand that people are fleeing violence and trying to give their children a better future. That desperation should not be treated as a crime. Asylum is a human right.”

Included in Gonzalez’s photo essay were images of Perez crouching on the ground and burying her face in her hands while the soldier stood in the foreground; crying and holding her son; and taking the soldier’s hand as she asked him to let her cross.

“Her face, that’s a small reflection of all migrants’ suffering,” Gonzalez said. “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.”

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador recently ordered about a third of the country’s National Guard to patrol the border, after forging a deal in June with President Donald Trump to keep the U.S. from imposing punishing tariffs on Mexican imports.

Under the arrangement, Obrador agreed to expand his country’s crackdown on immigrants traveling to the United States. Thousands of migrants have crossed Mexico from Central America this year on their way to the U.S., including many escaping violence and poverty in their home countries.

Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, after seeing the images, tweeted”Mexico should never have accepted this.”

The Mexican National Guard members do not have orders to detain migrants trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. According to Reuters, the soldier advised Perez and her son not to proceed, before she ran across the border while the soldier was looking away.

Perez and her son were reportedly detained by Customs and Border Protection agents after crossing, and may be transferred to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center or deported to Mexico under Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers. Human rights advocates have condemned numerous reports of unsafe and unsanitary conditions and abuse of immigrants in ICE detention facilities, and say Trump’s “draconian” policy forces refugees to “remain in danger” in Mexico.  

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