fbpx Leidy Paola Martinez Villalobos Took Her Life At a Queens Shelter. This Is Her Story. - Documented - Documented

Leidy Paola Martinez Villalobos Took Her Life At a Queens Shelter. This Is Her Story.


Sep 22, 2022

John, Leidy, Kevin y Anny. Foto cortesia de John Camacho

Bernal Camacho, Martinez Villalobos, Anny and Kevin. Photo courtesy of John Alexander Bernal Camacho.

This summary about a woman’s death at the Hollis family shelter in Queens was featured in Documented’s Early Arrival newsletter. You can subscribe to receive it in your inbox three times per week here.

Leidy Paola Martinez Villalobos, 32, loved learning. 

She cared for her two children deeply and was looking to further her studies and the career she had back home as a dental assistant. 

“We were searching for a better future, and instead, this tragedy happened,” her husband, John Alexander Bernal Camacho told Documented reporters Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio and Rommel Ojeda, who co-authored today’s story. 

On their journey to the U.S., the husband and wife were separated at the border. The wife, along with their two children, made the journey to New York. They were still living in the Hollis family shelter almost five months after their arrival. 

Theirs is the story of a migrant family whose aspirations of grasping the American dream crumbled inside the walls of a New York City shelter.

Challenges and obstacles weighed heavily on her: Martinez Villalobos kept in touch with her husband. But with each phone call, she was becoming more lonely and withdrawn, her husband told Documented. 

As the weeks passed, it seemed that Martinez Villalobos began to feel depressed. In conversations with her husband, she detailed obstacles she faced: it was difficult to find work; putting food on the table became a struggle. Some days, the family was forced to ration their food intake. 

At the shelter, Martinez Villalobos had a sparse internet connection, and would sometimes search for Wi-Fi at bus stops to call her husband, making the distance between them feel even more vast. City workers threatened to take away her children if she left them without supervision, even briefly, so she rarely went out on her own. 

Once a dental assistant in Colombia, her goal of furthering her own career in the U.S. faded as work prospects dimmed and she felt increasingly trapped within the confines of the Hollis family shelter. 

What comes next, the family asks: Yesterday, Documented learned that Martinez Villalobos’ husband has been in touch with the General Consul of Colombia to get assistance with the repatriation of his wife’s body.

For more of Martinez Villalobos’ story, read the full report now on Documented.

If you or someone you know needs access to mental health support services call 888-NYC-WELL (888-692-9355), or text “WELL” to 65173. Additionally, you can also chat online. Your information is always confidential. For assistance near you, visit our guide: Mental Health Resources for Immigrants in New York


New York

New York City is building humanitarian relief centers. Critics are calling them refugee camps: The plan has immediately drawn criticism from mutual aid groups and some city officials, who expressed concern that the centers will fail to meet adequate standards. 

Watch — Family caught in immigration battle reaches New York: A couple and their young daughter fled Venezuela, crossing seven countries to reach Texas. Then, they were pulled into a political fight between Republican governors and the White House. — The New York Times

Around the U.S. 

Air charter company Gov. DeSantis used to fly migrants out of Florida has ties to some of his top allies: Vertol Systems Company Inc. has contributed money to top allies of DeSantis, and was once legally represented by Florida’s “public safety czar” in charge of immigration policy. — NBC News

Delaware prepares for possible migrant arrivals after report of flight planned from Texas: A spokesperson for Delaware Gov. John Carney said the state was working to prepare in case migrants arrived unannounced to President Biden’s home state. — CNN

They paid taxes. Now undocumented Latinos are aging without savings, government care: Undocumented workers pay billions in taxes that they cannot recoup in retirement or for health care, and the number of elderly undocumented Latinos is growing fast. — USA TODAY (Paywall)

Listen — How border politics landed in Martha’s Vineyard: A monthslong strategy by two of the United States’ most conservative governors laid the issue of undocumented immigration at Democrats’ doorstep. — The New York Times

Washington D.C.

For the first time since 2017, U.S. embassy in Cuba will resume full immigrant visa processing: Visa processing will resume next year as part of an effort to expand legal pathways to U.S. — CNN

Lawmakers debate if money would help or intensify border woes: The federal government relies on nonprofits and local agencies to feed and shelter migrants, but immigration policy debates are clouding the prospect of fresh funding. — Bloomberg Government

Analysis — The difference between DeSantis’s migrant flights and the Biden admin.’s: Defenders of Republican governors have noted that the Biden administration also flies migrants to other areas of the country. But not all migrant flights are the same, writes Aaron Blake.  — The Washington Post



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