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2-year-old boy, still alive, found next to his migrant mother’s dead body near Yuma

By: - September 2, 2021 10:04 am

Wildflowers in the harsh desert near Yuma. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith | Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

A Colombian man living in Florida is trying to reunite with his toddler son after his wife and daughter died in the desert west of Yuma, an ordeal that the two-year-old boy survived as the family crossed into the United States from Mexico.

Hugo Morales Pinzon lost his wife and 10-year-old daughter last week. The mother and girl died from heat-related illness somewhere in the Cocopah Indian Tribe lands just east of the U.S.-Mexico border near Yuma, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 

Border Patrol agents found a two-year old boy, still alive, next to his mother’s dead body. He needed medical attention, CBP said in a statement. Emergency personnel took him to a hospital. He is now in government custody in California, according to the Colombian Consulate in Los Angeles

The boy is among the nearly 15,000 migrant children and teens who, as of Aug. 31, are in the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. ORR holds minors who arrived at the border alone or were separated from their relatives at the border. 

When reached by Arizona Mirror by phone, Morales Pinzon, said he is in contact with a social worker to try to find a home where his son can be released from ORR custody. Getting his son out of government custody is his priority, Morales Pinzon said. 

“For the moment, I ask for a lot of prayers from the community so my wife and daughter can find rest,” he said. His voice cracked. He said he was tired.

“(My wife) was a woman of faith,” Morales Pinzon said. 

The mother and two children had migrated from Colombia. They crossed the border near Mexicali, authorities from the Mexican state of Sonora said. The state agency said a human smuggler had abandoned the family. In a phone call to Sonora’s 9-1-1 rescue line, the mother told dispatchers that she was about to faint. A crying child then says, “Mom, I’m hungry!”

A GoFundMe page is raising money for Morales Pinzon to pay for sending the remains of his wife and daughter back to Colombia, funeral fees and for costs related to getting his son back to his custody from the government. 

Morales Pinzon lives in Florida. 

Tania Pavlak, a spokeswoman for the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office, said the county’s medical examiner determined the deaths were heat-related. That day, temperatures soared to 119 degrees.

There is no data for the number of dead migrants found in Yuma County, but the medical examiner in neighboring Pima County recorded 220 remains of dead migrants in Pima, Cochise, and Santa Cruz counties last year. So far this year, there have been 162 skeletons and bodies of migrants recovered, said Greg Hess, chief medical examiner for Pima County.

The Sonoran government took the tragic case as an example to again promote its “Dangers of the Desert” campaign. Guadalupe Lares Núñez, state coordinator for C5i, an emergency call center in Sonora that collaborates with Border Patrol to respond to calls near the U.S.-Mexico border, said migrants should not wait until they have no water, food or phone battery to contact rescue services. 

ABC15 reported in August that the emergency response teams in Arizona and Sonora that collaborate to respond to rescue calls near the border have aided almost 700 people between November to June.  

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Laura Gómez
Laura Gómez

Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for education, immigration, political, and public safety reporting and Spanish-language news and feature reporting. Laura worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.