VERAPAZ, El Salvador (Reuters) - Like many Salvadoran migrants before them, Marvin Gonzalez and his eight-year-old daughter Joselyn set off from their farm surrounded by corn and sugarcane one morning in early July with dreams of better lives in the United States.
Gonzalez, 32, planned to reunite the girl with her mother in North Carolina, and later send for his current wife from El Salvador.
The two made it across the U.S. border in late July. Then their luck turned. After they were detained in El Paso, Gonzalez died from heart-related causes that seemed to have flared up suddenly.
A number of Central American migrants have also died in border patrol custody in recent months, including young children.
Following the incident, El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele called on Salvadorans to not put their lives at risk in attempts to reach the United States.
He has estimated that about 300 migrants leave El Salvador every day, even as U.S. President Donald Trump pressures Central America and Mexico to curb migration flows.
Gonzalez’s father, Victor, 73, said he warned his son that the journey was too dangerous, recalling the harrowing photo of a father and young daughter who drowned trying to cross the Rio Bravo that was widely shared on social media.
“He told me that he couldn’t take the poverty anymore... he wanted to look for a better life,” said Gonzalez, a farmer.
He learned of his son’s fate when he heard his daughter-in-law wailing from her house across the dirt road from his own.
Norma Palacios, 23, the wife of the younger Gonzalez, said she had planned to eventually join her husband in the United States, bringing along their daughter Tifany, but had changed her mind.
“Our dream was to be together there, but now with what happened, I don’t have the courage to go alone,” she said.
Reporting by Nelson Renteria, Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Marguerita Choy