The Epic Love, Suffering, and Death of Ricardo Gomez Garcia

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(Peter Pereira / New Bedford Standard-Times)

I can safely say that this is the saddest story I've had to tell of an individual suffering from U.S. immigration policy.

I've written story after story about the suffering of individuals. No matter how much suffering migrants go through U.S. citizens just seem not to care, in effect, if not intent. Anti-migrant advocates actively ridicule dead migrants, and most progressives do nothing about it.

The New Bedford Standard-Times (please counter the hate people are spewing on this article) just published a story on the death of Ricardo Gomez Garcia.  He left an autistic child and his wife behind after the horror of New Bedford.  After fighting for five months in detention to stay in the U.S. he was deported back to Guatemala, where he made the choice to try and re-enter the U.S. again.  He met up with his family after the harrowing journey that I know so well, and fell ill.  After just 24 hours with his family, he died.

Skip to the end for how you can help.

The first time I learned about Garcia was a through a National Public Radio report on his family.  The report inspired me to write a comprehensive post on the New Bedford Raid.  I'm going to transcribe the NPR report below but keep in mind this was filed long before Garcia died.  Claudio Sanchez reports:

Claudio Sanchez: A three story apartment building at the end of a narrow steep spiral stairway, a middle-aged woman no taller than 4'10'', black hair pulled tight in a bun, answers the door of a small apartment.  A little boy clings to the woman's dress, he groans. 

"He doesn't speak," she says, "but he was born in this country". As if that somehow made up for her son's disability.  We sit at a tiny table against the kitchen wall.  It's really dark.  She's $200 behind on the electric bill so she's trying to use as little electricity as possible...

Juana in Spanish: "The problem that I'm dealing with right now...I am traumatized by the sadness of my husband..."

Claudio Sanchez: Her little boy, though, isn't eating well.  Today, he's upset about something.  He thinks his father is coming home any day, now.

Juana in Spanish: "He looked for him and showed me his clothes.  He showed me his clothes and then looked towards the window, because he always looked that way when he was coming home from work.  Once he saw him he would wait for him at the door."

Claudio Sanchez: He points to his father's clothes in the closet and stands by the window every afternoon waiting for him to arrive from work.
Everything about this story points to love.  A lawyer describes Garcia's determination:

[Ondine Galvez Sniffin] noted that Mr. Garcia had a different attitude than many of the Bianco detainees who were tired and ready to go back to their home country.

"This man wasn't giving up," she said. "He was willing to stay as long as necessary to get reunited with his wife and child."

Anti-migrant advocates and the media will paint this as a story of enforcement, as a story of abuse.  But this is a story about epic love and devotion.  It is about the lengths one man went to in order to be reunited with his family.  Most of all it is about the autistic son that he left behind.  Ricardo Gomez Garcia paid with his life out of love for his son.

I wish people understood what it means to take the long and dangerous journey from Guatemala to the United States.  You think Garcia wanted to do that?  You think he wanted to leave everything he knew in Guatemala to provide for his family?  If Garcia could have given his life to provide for his family in Guatemala, where he could be a person instead of an "illegal", I'm sure he would of.  But his life will fall on the deaf ears of the U.S. anti-migrant machine.  Crisis after crisis will continue to occur in a nation that has completely lost its soul. 

I'm sure people will dig up dirt on Garcia as I advertise this post.  They'll darken his name after he is no longer able to defend himself.  But I'm not writing this post for Garcia, I'm writing this post for the autistic son that he had so much love for.  He is innocent of the sins we are all guilty of.  He is innocent of the sins of this world.  Also, he's a U.S. citizen, maybe that will make people care about him.  O wait, he's Latino, I forgot. 

One young child gets left behind for every two people that are deported.  The majority of those children are U.S. citizens.  I dare anti-migrant advocates to look those children in the face and tell them this is all their "criminal" parent's fault. It is a parents' love that forces situations like these.  Unjust laws interfere with moral law.  I cannot think of laws that are more unjust than those that interfere with the love of spouses and their children.

In a generation, these children will be able to speak for themselves and it will be on our collective conscience that we did not do more to change what America has become. 

Garcia's son cannot speak for himself, though.  He is autistic, and his surviving mother is in the country illegally.  An anti-migrant advocate that would have this autistic child's mother sent home, and smirks at the death of his father, is a monster.  Guatemala has very few services for autism, and certainly not for a poor family.  When I lived in Guatemala I worked in what is one of the only places, ANINI, that provides for abandoned children with problems like autism.  If U.S. citizens only knew...

I wish I could say march on the streets, call your congressional representatives, burn your passports, even, but it's wrong to use an individual story like this to argue for my own notions of what should be done.  It is for that reason that I encourage people to write checks to Father Marc Fallon of Catholic Social Services who has been instrumental in showing these New Bedford families compassion, when a nation wouldn't.  The family is looking to raise $4,000 to send Garcia's body home.  Here is the information:

Catholic Social Services
Diocese of Fall River
238 Bonney Street
New Bedford, MA 02744
T: 508-997-7337
F: 508-984-7337
If people want to use Citizen Orange's donate form I will get all of the money to the Garcia family, and report the donations publicly on this blog.  Use the Citizen Orange's contact form if you want to figure out what else you can do. 

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kyledeb said:

This entry is cross-posted on Culture Kitchen, Daily Kos, and Blue Mass. Group.

janna said:

Kyle, I just sent a donation via paypal.
It's so hard to imagine that anyone would be so soulless as to feel anything but compassion for Juana y su hijo. Tragedy like this should never fail to move us; we are human. No one has the right to judge the actions of people who have to make such harrowing choices just to live. The people who throw stones have no idea what it's like to be in the position that Ricardo and Juana were in. People living prosperously here have no idea what it's like to really suffer, living in Guatemala, looking at the relief from poverty, and the seemingly limitless opportunities, that the U.S. offers.
The oldest brother of my chapín amignovio is autistic. He doesn't speak, and he cannot work. He is cared for by their mom, in their home. Four of his five brothers are here working to support the family; their aging father harvests the corn and beans with the help of the one remaining brother (who was deported from Md last spring). They all want to go home so badly, but they can't support the family while living in Guatemala.

kyledeb said:


You are one of the few that really knows what it means to be a migrant in the U.S. That knows the truth of what these people go through. I just wish there were more people that had your heart.

The beautiful stories you've told of Guatemalan migrants can be multiplied by the hundreds of thousands, by the millions, and people do nothing.

Oh this story makes my blood boil.

kyledeb said:

Here's another article from the Boston Globe.

Dominga said that Gómez was desperate to reunite with his 4-year-old son, Mauricio - who is autistic and does not speak - and to find work to support his four other children, ages 8 to 18, who live with their grandmother in Guatemala.

"He was worried about the boy," his wife said yesterday in an interview in Spanish. "He kept saying, 'I have to go back.' But he came back only to say goodbye."

It also describes how he left despite his health to be with his family:

Relatives in Guatemala were worried that he was too ill for the journey to the United States. His throat burned and he complained of a cough. Nearly a day after he arrived, his condition worsened and he was unable to breathe, Dominga said.
yave begnet said:

We need universal health care. We need more sensible and compassionate border policies. We need a sea change in public perception of migration. We need people to see immigrants as human beings.

What we have are some passionate people who know there's a problem and are working to raise awareness and change minds. We know change is possible because we've seen so much positive change since our parents were children, or their parents.

This story is a tragedy, and even more so because it will be ignored by most, and twisted by some. And we know that children are the most vulnerable to the stresses of migration.

And holy shit, Kyle, I guess I was late to the party, but I didn't know about your own border crossing. That's some real world education right there.

kyledeb said:

It took me a while to get to it, Yave, but it's funny that you didn't know about my trip. That's the whole reason I started blogging!

The report NCLR released was huge. A lot of U.S. citizens are growing up traumatized because of the actions of the U.S. government.

Always good to hear from you.

Marcela said:

Well looks like what is really needed is better health care all over the world--that guy should have been able to care for his kid in Guatemala instead of risking his life to get over here. I'll spread word in the autism community who might be able to give this family more specific help with the kid's treatment.

kyledeb said:

I completely agree Marcela, it's that sort of thinking that I'd like so many more people to do. If there was adequate healthcare and opportunities in Guatemala, Garcia would never have had to take this risk.

By all means use the contact form on the front page if you need any information.

Marcela said:

So have you been keeping track of the money they've been raising to see how far they still have to go? You seem to be doing such a good job of publicizing it on the blogs that I'd think they'd have their money by now, but don't want to make the wrong assumption. I assume any surplus money would go towards the kid's treatment and legal help for the family to stay here? I wonder if I'd be better off donating to that organization you mention in Guatemala...

kyledeb said:

I just called the number above in response to your question and they say that they haven't reached the $4,000 for the family. I've also sent an email asking them if any further money will go to the kid's treatment and legal help for the family. Online I've received $130 in donations and I will be sending that shortly.

There are a lot of worthy causes to donate money too, but it's not right to mention them on a post dedicated to the death of Ricardo Gomez Garcia. Just know that they still need money, and the world isn't accountable to migrants so they will receive help from no one except the compassionate.

Thanks for your comment. Feel free to use the contact form to ask further questions if you'd rather not put them in the comments section.

Marcela said:

Of course it's appropriate to think about where to send money to--the problem is much bigger than one family! I can't help but think about other families that this might be happening to that aren't able to get to an NPR reporter. I will send a check to the address you gave, but am wondering who could best prevent this from happening again--world health organization, the guatemalan organization you mentioned, refugee organizations or what...

kyledeb said:

Every post I write I usually give recommendations about what can be done. On systemic posts I suggest systemic solutions, on this post I think it's only appropriate to suggest individual solutions.

If you want a systemic solution to this problem though, my recommendation is the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. The were the first ones to take down ICE in the nation and they have laid the groundwork.

As always, use the contact form on the right to email me.

Sasha said:

I read this post as I sit here in my improvised office at the place I volunteer in Jocotenango, Guatemala- "Los Patojos"- where not one child does not have a family member who has attempted to go to the States. There is one kid in particular- Esvin - who is autistic. He comes everyday to the program with his younger sisters who are in school.

He stays at home during the day to help his mother- Dona Maris- who is often abused by her husband. In the afternoons, Esvin comes to "Los Patojos" where he is treated like any other kid and given the attention many people refuse to give him. Basically, he has nowhere else to turn. Dona Maris doesnt know that autism can be treated, and she definitly can't afford to get Esvin to a treatment center. She believes that if one day she can get him to the states, he will get the proper attention. Instead, she believes in the developent of her country and will fight for the success fo her children- in the country she was reaised in. She comes in everyday to leave off her children with bruises and smiles.

I read this blog and can recall so many stories of children left behind, and friends of friends who in their desperation left everything they knew to the unknown of the north. I instead write of a 16 year old boy and her mother who continue to have faith ina country that literally has too little resources for a boy like Esvin in his environment to get proper treatment.

If you would like to be Esvin's "Padrino" for about 100$ a month, please contact me. . feel free to check out Los Patojos' website:

kyledeb said:

You better believe that's my sister. She's better than I'll ever be.

Alejandra Guillen said:


I came across this article and it broke my heart. In fact, I work for an agency that provides early intervention (behavioral therapy) for children with Autism and other related developmental disorders. Our company is international and I am trying to get information from Guatemala so I can start an organization there. If anyone has any information regarding this, please contact me ASAP. I'm looking for a parent group or other organization that is willing to help us get this started. Our agency's website is PLEASE HELP!!!

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This page contains a single entry by kyledeb published on November 2, 2007 9:43 AM.

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