McALLEN, TEXAS — A toddler waiting with his family at the southern border to seek asylum in the US died Saturday after he was struck by a hit-and-run driver in the Mexican city of Matamoros.
Glady Cañas, an immigrant rights advocate in Matamoros, told BuzzFeed News the two-year-old died Saturday night from his injuries. The indigenous boy, identified in Spanish-language media as Oscar, had traveled to Matamoros with his family from Chiapas in southern Mexico to seek refuge.
The child was struck by a driver of an SUV on Oct. 20, nearly a week before he died, Cañas said.
The Tamaulipas attorney general’s office said an investigation into the child’s death was underway.
The boy is the 20th child to die at the US-Mexico border this year, according to data from the International Organization for Migration — the highest number since the organization began tracking deaths along migratory routes for its “Missing Migrants Project” in 2014. The previous record was nine deaths, in 2018.
The family of the toddler had been waiting at the international bridge linking Matamoros, Mexico, with Brownsville, Texas, along with other Mexican asylum-seekers, for a chance to enter the US and request asylum. The practice of limiting the number of asylum-seekers and forcing immigrants to wait in Mexico is known as metering or queuing.
The toddler and his family are part of a growing number of Mexicans, many of them indigenous, who have traveled to Matamoros to request asylum from the US. Other cities along the border, inluding Ciudad Juárez, Nogales, and San Luis Río Colorado, are also seeing more Mexican asylum-seekers.
Many of those seeking asylum in the US cite violence as a reason for requesting protection. More than 23,000 people have been killed in Mexico in the first eight months of 2019, according to data from the Mexican government, a growing figure that at its current rate is expected to surpass the nation’s record number of homicides reported in 2018.
Unlike those originating in other parts of the world, the US can’t force Mexican asylum-seekers to wait in the country while their cases are adjudicated by an immigration judge under the Trump administration’s controversial Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) policy, also known as “Remain in Mexico.”
Immigration attorneys and advocates argue that forcing Mexicans to wait to seek asylum in the US, and metering those who have presented themselves at the border for weeks or months while inside the country they’re attempting to flee is illegal.
The metering system began as early as 2016 under the Obama administration and has since expanded across the southern border under President Trump.
The practice of turning back asylum-seekers who present themselves at official border crossings and telling them to come back later is at the center of a 2017 lawsuit filed on behalf of Al Otro Lado, a binational border rights project and legal service provider, and asylum-seekers. The complaint alleges that turning asylum-seekers away is a violation of US and international laws.