Mother of dying immigrant reunited with daughter

Erin Cox
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun
A mother, trapped at the Mexican border while her daughter lay dying in Baltimore, arrives in time.

Petra Diaz Espino was crying when she finally got to her dying daughter's hospital room Tuesday afternoon. She wept more when she saw what leukemia had done to her 22-year-old, now on life support.

Her daughter's doctor cried tears of joy.

Last week, Petra was stuck at the Mexican border, denied entry to the United States as her youngest child, Carla, was in intensive care in Baltimore. Carla's aggressive cancer had been diagnosed just two weeks earlier. The doctors and staff at the University of Maryland Medical Center had been scrambling, without success, to get Petra a visa.

On Friday, they told Carla's family they expected she had days to live and might never regain consciousness.

On Monday morning, two days after Petra and Carla's story was featured in The Baltimore Sun, immigration officials granted Petra a three-week visa, according to another daughter, Fabiola García.

García did not know why the visa denial was reversed. State Department officials have said they cannot discuss the circumstances of individual cases.

A doctor and social worker who worked to reunite mother and daughter said they were overjoyed.

"Amazing," Dr. Fred Papali said.

Once across the border, Petra boarded a bus to San Antonio, where cousins picked her up and drove her to Houston, García said. Petra landed at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport shortly before 11 a.m. Tuesday and was at her daughter's bedside by early afternoon.

"She had already started to cry, because I had already explained the situation to her," García said through a translator. "She wanted to see her for herself."

Petra asked her daughter yes and no questions, but Carla did not respond, her sister said.

Carla left Mexico for Baltimore three years ago, the latest of several of Petra's eight children to illegally cross the border in search of a better life. Petra had not seen Carla since, and had never met Carla's 2-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter.

A few months ago, Carla was working in a restaurant, living with her husband and children in a house with seven other people, when she developed unexplained bruises. It wasn't until she came down with appendicitis that doctors diagnosed her as having a blood cancer that rarely responds to treatment.

Her sister said that before Carla lost consciousness this week, she cried and said that she wanted to see her mother.

"We're waiting on her to awaken so that we can see how she will react," García said of her sister.

García had not seen their mother in 13 years. "I'm very, very happy because she is finally there," she said.

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