They Separated Him From His Wife and Child at the Border. Then He Took His Own Life.

A new Washington Post report underscores the devastating toll of family separation.

Immigration detainees sit in their cells at the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange, Calif., in 2010. Jae C. Hong/AP

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

Two days after 40 Democratic senators called on the Trump administration to end its “inhumane decision” to separate families at the border, the Washington Post reported that a Honduran father who had been separated from his wife and child suffered a mental breakdown and committed suicide while in a padded room at a Texas jail.

The Department of Homeland Security has not publicly disclosed the death of 39-year-old Marco Antonio Muñoz. But according to the Post, which obtained a copy of the sheriff’s department report, Muñoz was found on the floor of his cell in a pool of blood with an item of clothing wrapped around his neck on May 13—shortly after the Trump administration implemented its “zero-tolerance” policy on illegal immigration, implementing tactics including separating families as a form of deterrence and attempting to prosecute anyone who crosses the border without authorization, even if they do so to seek asylum.

Much of the concern around Trump’s immigration crackdown has focused on how family separation can hurt children. (Georgetown University Health Policy Institute recently reported that it can lead to “potentially irreparable harm.”) But Muñoz’s suicide underscores the devastating toll the policy can take on parents as well. According to the Post, this is what happened to Muñoz and his family:

According to Border Patrol agents with detailed knowledge of what occurred, Muñoz crossed the Rio Grande with his wife and three-year-old son on May 12 near the tiny town of Granjeno, Texas. The area is a popular crossing point for Central American families and teenagers who turn themselves in to apply for asylum in the United States.

Soon after Muñoz and his family were taken into custody, they arrived at a processing station in nearby McAllen and said they wanted to apply for asylum. Border Patrol agents told the family they would be separated. That’s when Muñoz “lost it,” according to one agent, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the incident.

“The guy lost his s—,” the agent said. “They had to use physical force to take the child out of his hands.”

Muñoz was placed in a chain-link detention cell, but he began punching the metal and shaking it violently, agents said.

On Wednesday, a federal judge allowed a lawsuit filed by the ACLU challenging family separation to proceed after the Trump administration sought to get it dismissed. Judge Dana M. Sabraw wrote in his ruling that “at a minimum, the facts alleged are sufficient to show the government conduct at issue shocks the conscience and violates Plaintiffs’ constitutional right to family integrity.”

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate