A five-year-old immigrant girl who drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande into the US left her country with her mother so they could earn money in America to send back to a disabled younger brother, according to family members.
Little Margaret Sofia and her mother, Silvia García, were caught in the monsoon-swollen waters of the river Monday afternoon as they tried to cross illegally into El Paso Texas, Mexican authorities said.
The mother was holding her young daughter when the five-year-old was swept away by the current. Her body was later recovered by Mexican rescuers, devastating video showed.
“What she wanted, at her young age, was a better future for her little brother,” Sofia’s aunt, Rosa García, told a Guatemala news show. “She would tell him, ‘Little brother, I’m going to go (to America) and I will send you money.”
From a humble home in Esquipulas, Guatemala with unfinished floors, Sofia’s aunts described her as a happy and playful child. Sofia’s younger brother quietly sat on a chair near a photo of his older sister whose dream of taking care of him died with her.
“She would take care of her little brother and tell him that when she grew up, she was going to take care of him,” said Sofia’ aunt, Heidi García.
García’s sisters said she was a single mother who couldn’t afford to give her son the medical care he needed in Guatemala. While not naming his condition, they added that care for disabled children is not accessible in their country.
“She decided to go to America to give him a better life, to pay for a treatment to see if he’d be able to walk — that’s why she decided to leave,” said García’s sister.
The mother and daughter’s American dream turned into a nightmare, as García, who survived and is now at a Mexican hospital, watched her daughter slip away to her death.
García’s rescue from the Rio Grande was also photographed — showing her in a desperate state before her daughter’s body was recovered.
The mother and daughter planned to meet up with García’s sister who is already in Kansas.
Instead, García’s sisters in the US and Guatemala pleaded for help to get Sofia’s body back to their hometown so she can be buried. The relatives say communication with both the Guatemalan and Mexican governments has been slow and the family doesn’t have the estimated $6,500 it will take to fly Sofia’s body back to her country.
They also haven’t been able to reach García, who they hope people won’t judge for her decision to risk her daughter’s life for a chance at a better life.
“Sometimes people judge without knowing the reality, but we don’t know what they’re going through,” said Heidi García. “There’s a saying that if you have enough to eat, who are you to deny someone else a way of life.”