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A terrible story out of Houston, about a DACA recipient’s death after volunteering during Harvey recovery efforts, is a reminder that DACA recipients are risking their lives while the future of the program is under threat.
31-year-old Alonso Guillen disappeared last Wednesday when his boat capsized as he attempted to save Harvey victims from the flooding and wreckage. His mother, who lives in Mexico, has been denied a humanitarian visa to come to Houston to bury her son. See the story in its entirety here from Houston Chronicle, and excerpts below.
On Sunday afternoon, Guillen’s body floated past a sandy berm where family members had been keeping watch for days, staring out at the murky water. A relative dove in and pulled him to the shoulder of the creek until they were able to bring a boat over to get him onto shore.
Guillen’s father, Jesus Guillen, said he’d asked his son not to try and rescue people in the storm, but he insisted, saying he wanted to help people. He cried and prayed on Sunday afternoon as they pulled his son’s body from the water.
“Thank you, God,” he said, “for the time I had with him.”
The recovery of his body brings the number of people who have died or are feared dead from Harvey to nearly 60, and officials warn that more could be found.
Guillen, who was born in Piedras Negras, Mexico, and moved to Lufkin as a teenager, headed south with his friends toward Houston after Hurricane Harvey, towing a borrowed boat. They were near Interstate 45 and Beltway 8 and trying to reach an apartment complex when they hit the bridge, relatives said.
Alonso Guillen was a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which temporarily lifted the threat of deportation for immigrants brought to the U.S. before they were 16, family members said.
His father is a lawful permanent, but his mother is still in the application process for legal status.
Reached at her home in Piedras Negras, Mexico, across the border from Eagle Pass, Rita Ruiz de Guillen, 62, said she is heartbroken.
“I’ve lost a great son, you have no idea,” she said, weeping softly. “I’m asking God to give me strength.”
She said she hoped U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials would take pity and grant her a humanitarian visa so that she could come to Houston and bury her son, but she was turned back at the border.
“When we are with God, there are no borders,” she said. “Man made borders on this earth.”