Asylum Seeker Drowns in Rio Grande Trying to Reach U.S. After Months Stuck in Mexico Camp

A Guatemalan man's more than eight-month wait to find out whether or not he would be granted asylum in the U.S. came to a tragic end on Tuesday, after he was found drowned in the Rio Grande.

For more than 240 days, Edwin Rodrigo Castro de la Parra had been waiting with his mother, his sister and his wife and their two-year-old daughter at the Mexican border encampment in Matamoros, asylum seekers at the camp told Newsweek on Wednesday.

Castro de la Parra, who was identified by multiple asylum seekers at the camp, was considered a leader at the encampment, representing the Guatemalan asylum seekers forced to live there.

Like tens of thousands of other asylum seekers, due to the Trump administration's Migrant Protection Protocols, or "Remain in Mexico" policy, he had been forced to wait at the encampment to find out whether his family's asylum claims would be approved in the U.S.

Whether his 2-year-old daughter will have a future in the U.S., Castro de la Parra will never know.

On Tuesday, asylum seekers said he was found drowned in the river, with some wondering whether he was targeted by criminal groups operating in the area, which the U.S. State Department has assigned a level 4 travel advisory, warning of high rates of crime and violence.

Andrea Leiner, the strategic operations director for Global Response Management, an organization providing medical support in the area, told Newsweek that she could only confirm there was a drowning on Tuesday.

"There was a drowning yesterday, but we are working to confirm the circumstances," she said.

Asylum seekers said that while they are not sure what happened to Castro de la Parra, they believe his aim was to make it across the river to the U.S.

The incident comes amid growing frustrations and desperation among those living at the Matamoros campsite, particularly after Hurricane Hanna caused some flooding and destruction.

Asylum seekers have been calling on the U.S. government to extend some kind of support to them while they wait for their asylum applications to be processed. However, no respite has come and asylum seekers have largely been forced to rely on the support of volunteers from both the U.S. and Mexico.

In a recent interview with Newsweek, Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and acting director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), said that he empathized with asylum seekers waiting for months while their asylum cases are processed.

Acknowledging that the asylum process has largely come to a halt amid the coronavirus pandemic, Cuccinelli said officials were working to have the process moving soon, however, he did not provide any timeline.

As a member of the Trump administration, Cuccinelli has helped oversee the government's hardline immigration crackdown in the U.S. and at the border, including the enforcement of the "Remain in Mexico" policy.

An asylum seeker gazes over the Rio Grande across from the United States at a camp for asylum seekers on December 08, 2019 in the Mexican border town of Matamoros, Mexico. John Moore/Getty