Latin America & Caribbean

US-Mexico border: Pregnant woman from Guatemala dies after fall from wall

Migrants walk together along the US-Mexico border wall near El Paso on 4 June 2019 Image copyright Joe Raedle/Getty
Image caption Section of the US-Mexico border near El Paso, Texas

A 19-year-old pregnant woman from Guatemala died from injuries suffered after falling from the US-Mexico border wall, US and Guatemalan officials say.

Miriam Stephany Girón Luna fell as she tried to climb the steel mesh barrier near El Paso, Texas on Saturday.

She was taken to hospital where doctors tried to deliver the baby by emergency C-section without success.

Officials say the case indicates a change in how migrants are trying to reach the US amid new restrictions.

President Donald Trump has made the fight against illegal migration to the US a major policy issue and has taken measures to deter entry across the border from Mexico, including plans for a border wall. Large sections of the border near El Paso already have some form of barrier.

Girón Luna was travelling with a 26-year-old man believed to be her partner and the baby's father, and fell more than 6m (19ft), Guatemala's foreign ministry said on Thursday (in Spanish). The man eventually found US border patrol agents, who called for an ambulance to rescue her.

According to the statement, Girón Luna was taken to a hospital in El Paso with a cerebral haemorrhage, liver and kidney lacerations and a pelvis fracture. She underwent multiple surgeries but died from her injuries on Tuesday.

The Guatemalan statement said she was seven months pregnant while US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said she was eight months.

Gloria Chavez, CBP's El Paso sector chief, blamed the death on "human smugglers" who had "encouraged her and helped her climb" the barrier. "We will engage our law enforcement partners in Mexico to find those responsible for placing these lives in danger," she said in a statement.

Media reports said Girón Luna was a social worker and beauty pageant winner and wanted to reach the US to help her family financially.

Tens of thousands of people from Guatemala and neighbouring El Salvador and Honduras have tried to enter the US in recent years with many saying they are facing violence and poverty.

Image copyright Johan Ordonez/AFP
Image caption A group of Guatemalan migrants deported from the US arrived in Guatemala City on Thursday

The number of Guatemalans trying to climb the US-Mexico border wall rose recently because they no longer surrender to US border patrol, Tekandi Paniagua Flores, the Guatemalan consul in Del Rio, Texas, told the Associated Press news agency.

That is because changes implemented by the US government, including the Remain in Mexico policy that forces asylum seekers from Central America to wait in Mexico until a decision on their cases is reached, have made it more difficult for many people to remain in the US once they are caught.

The man who was travelling with Girón Luna is under US custody. Guatemala's foreign ministry said it had started the process to repatriate Girón Luna's body.

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Media caption"I sent my seven-year-old across the border alone," says one parent on the US-Mexico border

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