His 13-year-old daughter, Heydi Gámez García, lies in a raised mattress in a Queens, New York, pediatric hospital room. A pair of stuffed animals sit by her facet.
Gámez hadn’t seen Heydi since he despatched her away with a hug and kiss from their violent hometown in Honduras 4 years in the past. He says he feared for her security after her grandfather was gunned down by MS-13 gang members.
Since then he is tried repeatedly to hitch her within the US, solely to be rebuffed by immigration authorities.
However this isn’t the reunion he and his household imagined.
Heydi, who had been despondent about being separated from her father, tried to hold herself earlier this month within the suburban Lengthy Island dwelling of one in every of her aunts. Docs say she is mind useless and will not get well.
Immigration officers launched Gámez from a Houston detention heart final week on a 14-day humanitarian parole “to are inclined to the issues of his daughter’s passing,” based on an order from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He’s to return to Texas July 27 to face deportation.
The 34-year-old father and his sisters confronted a wrenching choice. They took Heydi off life assist Thursday night, and plan to bury her early subsequent week in a Lengthy Island cemetery, almost 2,000 miles from the city in northwest Honduras the place she grew up.
“Please forgive me for failing you,” Gámez says he’ll inform his daughter. “I am sorry I could not be there… I by no means meant to go away you.”
They sought a safer life within the US
Heydi’s brief life — a narrative first reported by The New York Occasions — is yet one more reminder of the human toll of the continuing immigration disaster on the US-Mexico border and past.
Gámez says Heydi’s mom walked out on the household when the lady was lower than two months outdated. They haven’t seen her once more. He says he moved to New York as an undocumented immigrant when Heydi was about one, leaving her behind along with his dad and mom in Honduras. He labored for a number of years on Lengthy Island, the place his sister Jessica had settled after being granted asylum.
In 2014, he says he was compelled to return to Honduras after MS-13 members, angered over his father’s refusal to make extortion funds they known as “struggle taxes,” shot and killed the 59-year-old man on the street. With the well being of Gámez’s mom quickly deteriorating, he mentioned he apprehensive about who would take care of Heydi and his youthful sister, Zoila.
The next 12 months he despatched Heydi to america with an uncle, adopted by Zoila, now 21, to guard them from MS-13. Heydi was granted asylum in June 2016. ICE paperwork present Zoila was granted asylum the next 12 months.
Heydi’s aunt Jessica Gámez, 32, says the lady adjusted shortly to her new life in america. She discovered English in lower than a 12 months, did nicely at school and beloved listening to music and visiting an area Chinese language buffet.
Heydi spoke along with her father nearly daily, educating him new phrases in English and correcting his pronunciation, he recalled, his eyes welling with tears. She spoke of sooner or later changing into a nurse or a pediatrician or perhaps a Hollywood actress.
“She was a traditional child — comfortable and mischievous, like most kids,” Jessica Gámez says. “She had many desires. She was very good.”
However she longed for her father to hitch her.
3 times he crossed the US-Mexico border. The primary two instances he was detained and despatched again to Honduras. The third time was simply final month.
Gámez saved promising Heydi they might quickly be collectively.
“Heydi was at all times asking, ‘When is papi coming?'” Jessica Gámez says. “I might inform her to be affected person. We’re doing all we are able to.”
A father’s wrestle to rejoin his household
Gámez’s quest to hitch his daughter in suburban New York predates the Trump administration’s hardline stance on immigration enforcement, together with household separations on the border and forcing some asylum seekers to stay in Mexico whereas their circumstances make their method by means of immigration courts.
In April 2016, Gámez was picked up by US Border Patrol brokers close to McAllen, Texas. He was ordered eliminated in September, and deported to Honduras early the next month, ICE mentioned.
Gámez and his lawyer, Anibal Romero, mentioned immigration authorities concluded the idea of his asylum declare was not credible. CNN has not been in a position to confirm this with ICE.
He tried once more in September 2017 however was detained close to Santa Teresa, New Mexico, ICE mentioned in a press release. Gámez was convicted of unlawful re-entry in late October of that 12 months and despatched again to Honduras a second time in November, ICE mentioned.
US Citizenship and Immigration Providers, which screens most asylum functions, declined to touch upon Gámez’s case, citing privateness issues.
Romero, his lawyer, says Gámez is only one of many immigrants within the US who’re good folks and solely asking for a chance to turn into authorized residents.
“How is it attainable that man who’s operating away from his nation along with his child and his sister will get type of caught up on this damaged immigration system the place his daughter is granted asylum, his sister is granted asylum and he finally ends up getting deported?” Romero wonders.
Each failed try by her father to achieve the US appeared to plunge Heydi right into a deeper melancholy, her family members say.
Gámez apprehensive about making guarantees he could not preserve, akin to vowing to be by Heydi’s facet for her quinceañera, or 15th-birthday celebration.
“She was shedding religion that I might be along with her,” he mentioned.
Gámez remembers a cellphone name along with his daughter shortly earlier than his ultimate border crossing. In accordance with ICE, immigration authorities apprehended Gámez June 1 close to Sarita, Texas.
“She was crying, ‘Papi, you may by no means make it. They at all times catch you,'” he says. “I promised her, ‘Daughter, that is the final time I attempt to God will grant me the chance.’ However I acquired caught once more.”
Heydi’s fading hopes
In current months, Heydi’s dream of a reunion along with her dad started to fade.
Heydi lamented to her aunts that, in contrast to her classmates, she didn’t have a father or a mom to go to her faculty. In December, she tried to chop her wrist at college and was taken to a hospital for a psychiatric analysis, Jessica Gámez says. Heydi additionally was seeing a therapist till about two months in the past, she says.
Jessica Gámez, 32, says Heydi even talked about returning to Honduras to be along with her father. The lady mentioned her “life had no that means” with out him.
“I really feel I did not take correct care of her. Like I failed her indirectly,” says Jessica Gámez, who lived with Heydi at her dwelling in Bay Shore, New York, about an hour and a half east of New York Metropolis.
“I used to be suppose to be defending her,” she says. “I might by no means ship her to Honduras. However I by no means thought one thing dangerous would occur to her right here.”
One night time in early July, Heydi broke down in tears to Zoila and mentioned she not believed the tales about being reunited along with her father. She talked about changing into a lawyer to assist him win his freedom.
Heydi then mentioned she wished to be alone. Two hours later, Zoila Gámez found her niece had gone right into a closet and tried to take her personal life. She didn’t go away a notice, family members say.
One week later, medical doctors at Cohen Kids’s Medical Heart in Queens declared Heydi mind useless.
“Heydi arrived in a neurologically devastated state and there was no hope for restoration,” Dr. Charles Schleien, a senior vice chairman on the hospital, mentioned in a press release.
“We have labored with this household and supported them by means of their anguish with our multidisciplinary staff. In the long run, they selected to show tragedy into the present of life. Heydi is an organ donor and her ultimate act shall be to save lots of others.”
Carrying a GPS-monitoring ankle bracelet, Gámez has been holding a bedside vigil along with his siblings on the hospital. Typically he and his sister Jessica take Heydi’s arms in theirs and weep.
“We love you,” Manuel Gámez whispers to his mute daughter. “Do not go away us.”
Exterior the hospital, Jessica Gámez struggles along with her personal grief.
“I attempted to offer Heydi all she wanted,” she says. “However her solely dream was to be along with her father.”
CNN’s Geneva Sands and Matthew Reynard contributed to this story.