McALLEN, Texas — A toddler waiting with his family at the southern border to seek asylum in the United States died Saturday after he was struck by a hit-and-run driver in the Mexican city of Matamoros.
Glady Cañas, an immigrant rights advocate in Matamoros, told BuzzFeed News the 2-year-old died Saturday night from his injuries. The indigenous boy, identified in Spanish-language media as Oscar, had traveled to Matamoros with his family from Chiapas in southern Mexico to seek refuge.
The child was struck by a driver of an SUV on Oct. 20, nearly a week before he died, Cañas said.
The Tamaulipas attorney general's office said an investigation into the child's death was underway.
The boy is the 20th child to die at the US–Mexico border this year, according to data from the International Organization for Migration — the highest number since the organization began tracking deaths along migratory routes for its “Missing Migrants Project" in 2014. The previous record, in 2018, was nine deaths.
The family of the toddler had been waiting at the international bridge linking Matamoros, Mexico, and Brownsville, Texas, along with other Mexican asylum-seekers for a chance to enter the US and request asylum. The practice of limiting the number of asylum-seekers and forcing immigrants to wait in Mexico is known as metering or queuing.
The toddler and his family are part of a growing number of Mexicans, many of them indigenous, who have traveled to Matamoros to request asylum from the US. Other cities along the border, including Ciudad Juárez, Nogales, and San Luis Río Colorado, are also seeing more Mexican asylum-seekers.
Many of those seeking asylum in the US cite violence as a reason for requesting protection. More than 23,000 people were killed in Mexico in the first eight months of this year, according to data from the Mexican government, a growing figure that at its current rate is expected to surpass the nation's record number of homicides reported in 2018.
Mexican asylum-seekers, unlike those from other parts of the world, can't be forced by the US to wait in the country while their cases are adjudicated by an immigration judge under the Donald Trump administration's controversial Migrant Protection Protocols policy, also known as "Remain in Mexico."
Immigration attorneys and advocates argue that forcing Mexicans to wait to seek asylum in the US — and metering those who have presented themselves at the border for weeks or months while inside the country they're attempting to flee — is illegal.
The metering system began as early as 2016 under the Barack Obama administration and has since expanded across the southern border under President Trump.
The practice of turning back people who present themselves at official border crossings and telling them to return later is at the center of a 2017 lawsuit filed on behalf of asylum-seekers and Al Otro Lado, a binational border rights project and legal service provider. The complaint alleges that turning them away is a violation of US and international laws.