A 13-year-old Honduran immigrant was taken off life support after she attempted suicide while being separated from her father, according to CNN.
Heydi Gámez García, who lived in New York, died last Thursday after trying to hang herself, her family said. The young teenager had reportedly been distressed about being separated from her father, Manuel Gámez, who had not seen her in four years but had repeatedly tried to reunite with her by crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Manuel told the network that he first moved to New York as an undocumented immigrant, when Heydi was about a year old. At the time, his daughter — whose mother purportedly walked out on the family when Heydi was less than 2 months old — stayed with his parents in Honduras.
Manuel said he worked on Long Island for several years but was forced to return to Honduras in 2014, when MS-13 members allegedly killed his 59-year-old father for not making extortion payments. Manuel said he was concerned about the well-being of his daughter and his younger sister, Zoila, amid his mother's failing health.
The next year, Manuel sent Heydi and Zoila to stay with his older sister, Jessica Gámez, in the United States, according to CNN. Both Heydi and Zoila had been granted asylum, and Heydi quickly adjusted to her new life, Jessica told the network. Heydi, in particular, learned English in less than a year, excelled academically and loved listening to music, Jessica added.
Still, the 13-year-old missed her father, despite talking to him almost daily, Jessica said.
"Heydi was always asking, 'When is Papi coming?'" Manuel's older sister said. "I would tell her to be patient. We're doing all we can."
In fact, Manuel tried to cross the U.S.-Mexico border three separate times, CNN reports. On both of his first two attempts, he was detained and send back to Honduras. Last month, he was taken into custody again, shortly after his daughter had warned him about the dangers of crossing the border.
"She was crying, 'Papi, you'll never make it. They always catch you," Manuel recalled. "I promised her, 'Daughter, this is the last time I try and God will grant me the opportunity.' But I got caught again."
Last week, Manuel was released by immigration officials on a 14-day humanitarian parole "to tend to the matters of his daughter's passing," according to an order from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He attended Heydi's wake on Monday and will bury her on Tuesday.
"I was not able to protect my daughter, what I wanted the most was to protect her," he told CNN.
In the aftermath of the 13-year-old's death, the father said he plans to donate her organs.
"Now that my daughter is no longer here, at least another life can shine," he told Univision, CNN's affiliate network. "Hopefully, one day I get to meet the person who is going to have her heart."