Diocesan News

Immigrant Mom With Breast Cancer Dies

Maria Barragan (Photo: Tim Harfmann)

By Allyson Escobar & Tim Harfmann 

Maria Barragan, a mother from Guatemala who was battling stage 4 cancer and who was reunited with her undocumented husband in Brooklyn this past summer, passed away on Oct. 3. 

According to Amy Lyons, a parishioner at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Williamsburg, who helped the family, Barragan spent a week at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center before her death. Her husband, Benjamin, was at her bedside. 

Lyons said that Barragan was having trouble breathing toward the end of her fight, as the chemotherapy had stopped working and tumors took over her lungs. 

Barragan, who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer over a decade ago, was buried in Guatemala.  

Before her death, Barragan pleaded for help, especially in taking care of her two young sons, Cristian and Daniel. The family was living in Brownsville. 

“I’m sick. I’m sad. I’m scared,” Barragan said in June. “So much stress for me. I need help.”

Several local families including Lyons — who had volunteered to be a short-term legal guardian for the boys so that they won’t be forced into foster care — requested for a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services humanitarian parole for their remaining parent, Benjamin. 

It was a long process, Lyons said, as they had been initially turned down. 

But with the help of immigration lawyers, advocates from the church and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Benjamin was granted a brief humanitarian/significant public benefit parole during the summer and was able to reunite with his family.

Benjamin Barragan was in Mexico trying to get a green card for the U.S., when officials discovered that he had previously crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. He was stuck in Mexico for almost a year, and isn’t eligible for a green card for at least 10 years.

The humanitarian parole granted Benjamin temporary entry into the U.S. He is still in Brooklyn caring for his sons, according to Lyons. 

Lyons also said that her church group and concerned, empathetic parents have appealed to immigration officials allow Benjamin to stay in the United States longer and said that “he is safe for now, as Homeland Security reviews his case.” 

As he mourns the death of his wife, Barragan said he hopes to find a job in the near future.