Mexican Man Finally Allowed To Bury American Son

A Mexican man who was barred from entering the United States to bury his 10-year-old son has been given permission to attend the funeral, following media coverage and Congressional intervention.

Fidelmar ‘Fidel’ Merlos-Lopez’s son Damien Lopez had died in a Shenandoah, Pennsylvania house fire along with his cousin, aunt and 7-month-old half-brother.

The grieving father has been waiting at the U.S.-Mexico border at Laredo, Texas, since the blaze, his lawyer Elizabeth Surin said. But U.S. Customs and Border Protection had been denying Lopez ‘humanitarian parole’ to attend the funeral.

“He’s out of his mind. Can you imagine? Your son is dead in a fire and you can’t even get across. It’s clear they are giving us the runaround,” Surin had said.

Lopez entered the United States illegally in 1995. He married a U.S. citizen who gave birth to Damien in 2002, later divorcing and then marrying his current wife, Danielle Lopez, who’s also a U.S. citizen.

In 2007, police stopped him for running a red light and turned him over to immigration authorities. He agreed to leave the U.S. voluntarily and began the process of applying for legal permanent residence.

Surin, his immigration lawyer, said he was well on his way to getting his green card and rejoining his family in Shenandoah when tragedy struck.

“He’s trying to comply, trying to follow the rules of U.S. immigration law, but they are using that against him now. This whole thing is really heart-wrenching,” she said.

Surin said border officials told her that Lopez was originally denied entry because ‘he didn’t have a relationship with Damien.’ She said it’s just the opposite: Lopez shared partial custody of Damien and paid his ex-wife child support before leaving the United States. She added that the Mexican husband of Tiffany Sanchez, a 29-year-old woman who also died in the fire, was granted humanitarian parole to attend the funeral.

Humanitarian parole is only approved for about 25 percent of the 1,200 applications made each year.

In February, Think Progress reported on Yarelis Bonilla, a 5-year-old Leukemia patient in New Jersey, whose life-saving bone-marrow transplant almost did not happen because U.S. officials twice denied a visa for her donor, her 7-year-old sister Gisselle, to come to the U.S.

Giselle got her visa also after media coverage and the intervention of a politician, Senator Robert Menendez, and the operation was successful.

Related stories:

No, GOP, Immigration Detention is no ‘Holiday’

Migrants ‘Left to Die’ in Mediterranean Tragedy

Out of Status: A Story of Immigration Struggles

Picture by stephan caspar

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Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin3 years ago

kathy p.: Being in a country without permit is NOT equal to murder and rape! Get a grip of what's important and what it means to lose a child!

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

its sad but the fact of the matter is that the child really shouldnt have ever been conceived, since he was here ILLEGALLY. illegal means not allowed. people seem to shrug it off. its as illegal as stealing, or murder, or rape.. and in fact when illegals come here they ARE stealing... with every job they work, every house they occupy, and every bite they eat. however, he should be allowed to see his son, then be escorted back to his place of origin. from there he can apply for whatever he needs to to be here legally

Rose Becke3 years ago


Donna B.
Donna B.3 years ago

How very sad for this man. To lose a child must be the worst. My brother died almost 13 years ago and my mother will never be the same. Thank God they finally let him in the United States to attend his son's funeral.

Lynn Squance
Lynn Squance3 years ago

The death of a child is something that no parent should have to endure. But because life is what it is, parents do endure these tragedies. They don't need more trouble heaped on them. They need compassion and understanding. I am glad that Senor Lopez was finally allowed to bury his son.

I don't have much use for the US Border Service, or whatever it is called. I was on vacation crossing into Montana from Alberta Canada when the border officer approached my vehicle with his gun drawn and pointed at the car. Perhaps there was something going on, I don't know. But the feeling of fear and outrage has never left me.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle3 years ago

Sheri S., you are off your rocker, with your made-up stories.

This story is heart-breaking.

KS Goh
KS Goh3 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Sheri Schongold
Sheri Schongold3 years ago

It is a shame this had to happen. I understand that you have tofollow immigration rules and keep the "riff raff" out. But, to deny a man or any parent the right to bury their child is a crime, especially when the parent is not a criminal. We let foreign criminals in all the time or they come in illegally and they are allowed to stay. Obama's family is a good example of that, and when his uncle got into trouble, he said "let me call the White House." He and the aunt are on the list to be deported and have yet to go anywhere. Why? What makes them any better than the rest of the illegal aliens? Thank God someone had the brains to see what was happening and had the brains and compassion to say "let him in."

lis Gunn
lis Gunn3 years ago

@Judith H. I'm heartened that you think this tragedy is "horrible" but the rest of your post suggests that it was all Señor Merlo-Lopez's fault for being an "illegal alien" and not going through the proper channels. How desperately sad that even tragedies such as this was should be bound up in bureaucratic inhumanity. No doubt if any customs or immigration officer took it upon him or herself to have a heart and let him attend the funeral, they would have been fired.

Julia W.
Julia W.3 years ago

Whoever is running our Immigration Service should be fired. Whoever made the refusal decision should be fired. They are incompetent bureaucrats without a drop of humanity.