Idalia Yamileth Herrera Hernandez grew increasingly desperate with her toddler in Mexico as they waited for weeks for their day in court. It never came.
The Honduran mother died with her son, 21-month-old Iker Gael Cordova Herrera, while trying to cross the Rio Grande river into Texas, Nelly Jerez, the Honduran vice foreign minister of consular and migration affairs, said in a statement obtained by CNN.
Their bodies were recovered last week in an area near San Felipe Creek in Val Verde County after an “intensive search” by air and water, according to a US Customs and Border Protection spokesperson.
Jerez said the pair had recently entered the US and made a request for asylum but they were sent to Matamoros, Mexico, to wait for an immigration court hearing.
Thousands of asylum seekers have been forced to wait in Mexico while their cases are adjudicated in the US under the Migrant Protection Protocols program, informally known as “Remain in Mexico.”
In Matamoros, hundreds of people who were returned to Mexico are living in tents near a US port of entry while others stay at the few migrant shelters in the city. Many of them rely on food and clothing donations from non-profit groups and take showers in the river or a makeshift shower behind a dumpster.
Last week, Herrera Hernandez told her husband that she felt scared and nervous about crossing the Rio Grande.
“Imagine, I’m going to cross the river and I don’t know how is it going to be… what if I drown?” Elmer Cordova told Univision 34 of his wife’s last text message.
Cordova said he and his older daughters moved to North Carolina earlier this year. His wife and son were trying to join them.
The mother and child were in the process of being repatriated to Honduras, authorities said.
Earlier this year, a 23-month-old girl from El Salvador and her father drowned crossing the Rio Grande near Matamoros. A photograph of the pair face down in murky waters shook viewers worldwide.
The pair and three other members of their family had lived for two months in Mexico and decided to cross the river out of desperation.
Around 42,000 migrants have been sent back under the Migrant Protection Protocols program. It was initially rolled out in January at the San Ysidro port of entry in California but has since then been expanded to several other cities across the US-Mexico border.
This month, the Trump administration opened tent courts along the Texas border to hear the cases of migrants who have been returned to Mexico to await their immigration proceedings.