Heartbroken son of Colombian migrant blames himself for her suicide

Heartbroken son of Colombian migrant blames himself for her suicide


The young Colombian mother who took her own life at a Queens homeless shelter this past weekend was found dead by her teenage son — and he blamed himself for her suicide in a heartbreaking interview with NYPD officers, according to neighbors and police sources.

“I heard him talking to the two policemen. He said, ‘It’s my fault,’” a migrant who lived next door to the shattered Colombian family at the shelter told the Daily News in Spanish on Tuesday.

The 15-year-old boy and his 7-year-old sister had been sent out to play by their mother on Sunday afternoon, according to the neighbor. While they were out, the 32-year-old mom, whose name is being withheld by The News, took her own life at the shelter in Hollis by using a cord to hang herself in the bathroom before the boy returned to find her, NYPD sources and the neighbor said.

The neighbor, who did not want to be named, said she tried to console the shell-shocked son.

“I said, ‘No, no, not your fault,’” she said. “He thinks it’s his fault because he left her alone.”

Since the Sunday tragedy, the teen and his sister have been staying at another Queens shelter with a family friend from Bogota, Colombia, who also recently made the trek to the U.S. in hopes of seeking asylum, the friend said. They returned to the Hollis shelter on Tuesday afternoon to retrieve some of their belongings.

The son was barely able to speak, but asked to describe his mother, he told The News: “She was perfect.”

Inside the family shelter in Hollis, Queens where Paula took her life.

The family’s father has tried to join his kids and wife in the U.S. several times since they first arrived in May after crossing into the U.S. from Mexico, the family friend said. But he was sent back to Bogota each time, and his children are now going to travel back to Colombia to be with him, the friend said.

“The kids’ father won’t let them stay,” she said.

The mom’s death added a devastating note to the migrant crisis unfolding in the city shelter system.

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More than 13,000 migrants fleeing violence and economic devastation in their South and Central American home countries have poured into New York since May, according to city officials.

Some 9,500 of them were staying in city shelters as of Tuesday, and dozens more migrants continue to arrive weekly, Mayor Adams said during an unrelated press conference at City Hall. Adams said his administration is investigating the Sunday suicide at the Hollis shelter, but declined to share more details, telling reporters that the law precludes him from disseminating “that type of information.”

“We always do investigations after a death no matter what happens, whether it’s inside one of our facilities. So, yes, we will and we will release the outcome of that,” Adams said.

Speaking in Brooklyn on Monday, Adams said the tragedy “wasn’t a failure.”

“A woman, I believe, was traumatized by this whole experience,” he said. “This is not a failure of those men and women — those city employees who have stayed up late at night, been at the bus station feeding, navigating. No, it’s not a failure. City employees are not failures; they’re hardworking civil servants.”

Two women who live at the same shelter the young mother did blamed workers there for her death.

“She fell into a deep depression,” said a resident who knew the mom for the past five months. “She couldn’t work. She couldn’t leave the kids alone. The treatment was horrible. The people were very rude to her. Some of the security guards are racist. She couldn’t pay for food.”

The mom “cried every single day,” her friend added.

“Most of the people who work here are very nice and work hard, but there are some who are very rude,” said a second friend of the mother. “Sometimes they yell.”

Hollis shelter workers do weekly check-ins with residents — but to little effect — according to the friend.

“The social worker didn’t help her at all,” she said of the late mother. “Some are good and some are bad. Ours don’t know anything.”

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The mayor’s office did not directly address the allegations when asked for comment, but provided this statement from Hizzoner: “Our hearts break for this young woman and her loved ones, and we, as a city mourn her. This tragedy is a reminder that we have an obligation to do everything in our power to help those in need.”

Many of the Latin American migrants in New York ended up in the city because Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent them here on buses — often without alerting local authorities — as part of a political feud with President Biden over border policies.

The influx of migrants has brought the city’s already overcrowded shelter system to the brink of collapse, resulting in Adams’ administration failing to provide beds for dozens of homeless people on at least two occasions this summer in apparent violation of the local right-to-shelter law.

Immigrant rights activists and some local Democratic politicians have accused Adams’ administration of not doing enough to accommodate the waves of migrants. But most of Adams’ critics have also joined him in singling out Abbott for the city shelter crisis.

“People should not be used as political pawns in any circumstances and for that, Gov. Abbot should be ashamed,” Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said in response to Sunday’s suicide. “Now is the time that we demand more from all levels of government to ensure the health and safety of every New Yorker — whether they are newcomers or not.”

With Rocco Parascandola and Michael Gartland



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