July 26, 2019

Photo of mother begging Mexican guard becomes symbol of migrants struggle
Viral images show Ledy Pérez sobbing as she pleads with an armed guard to let her and her son aged six cross the US-Mexico borderGuatemalan migrant Ledy Pérez embraces her son, Anthony, while praying to ask a member of the Mexican national guard to let them cross into the US, as seen from Ciudad Juárez. Photograph: José Luis González/ReutersLedy Pérez grasped her six-year-old son and sobbed as she begged a Mexican guard to let her bring him across the US-Mexico border and to, hopefully, a better future than the one she faced at home in Guatemala.The image of Pérez embracing her son, Anthony Díaz, as he stares at guards clad in desert fatigues and armed with assault rifles has made headlines in Mexico and gone viral in the US.Through sobs, Pérez repeatedly asks the officers let her pass in a video posted by Mexico’s El Universal newspaper. “Don’t let them send me back,” she says. “I just want to give my son a better life.”Ledy Pérez reacts while holding hands with her son, Anthony, while asking to members of the Mexican national guard to let them cross into the US. Photograph: José Luis González/ReutersFamilies arrived at the US border from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador at record rates in the spring, fleeing a toxic mix of violence, poverty, food insecurity, climate change and corruption.Under pressure from the US to stem the flow, Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, directed nearly a third of the country’s militarized national guard police force to patrol the border. He insists the rights of migrants must be upheld, but the image of Pérez’s plight garnered criticism in Mexico.On Tuesday, former Mexican president Felipe Calderón retweeted the photo and wrote: “What a pity! The Mexico government should not have accepted this”The national guard deployment, along with the hot summer weather, saw the number of people apprehended at the border fall in June though the factors driving people out of the region, known as the Northern Triangle, have not been resolved.Pérez embraces her son while facing Mexico’s national guard. There was no overt aggression in the nine-minute encounter in Ciudad Juárez, the photographer, José Luis González, told Reuters. Photograph: José Luis González/ReutersThe Reuters photographer José Luis González captured the powerful images and said the soldier centered in the photo did not provide his name, but said he was only following orders. There was no overt aggression in the nine-minute encounter in Ciudad Juárez, González told Reuters.Pérez was undaunted by the soldiers’ steely response and lunged for the border with her son when the soldier looked away, Gonález said. Sprinting across the riverbank, the pair made it out of the national guard’s jurisdiction into US territory, where they were taken into custody by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).From there, they could be brought to a US detention facility, freed until their immigration case is heard by a judge or returned to Mexico while their asylum claim is processed.Pérez embraces her son as she pleads with Mexican armed police. Photograph: José Luis González/ReutersThe crossing Pérez and Anthony eventually made is often characterized as an “illegal” entry, despite the Trump administration making legal crossings for asylum seekers nearly impossible. The difficulty of requesting asylum has driven people to attempt entry at other parts of the border, often with the intent of being apprehended by US border patrol.Under an informal policy known as “metering”, asylum seekers must wait months before they are allowed to approach US officials and request asylum. Nearly 20,000 people who have managed to request asylum from a US official have since been returned to Mexico to wait for their case to be processed as part of the Trump administration’s opaque Remain in Mexico policy. The returned migrants have told journalists, advocates and courts that they were extorted, assaulted and raped in Mexico.Pérez and Anthony sprinted across the riverbank, made it out of national guard jurisdiction and into US territory, where they were taken into custody by US Customs and Border Protection. Photograph: José Luis González/ReutersIt is unclear what comes next for Pérez and her son, but the photographer said her face in the photos was “a small reflection of all migrants’ suffering”.González 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.”
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