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Slain girl’s father denied visa to attend her funeral

The move comes amid a widespread crackdown on immigration.

Hania Aguilar. CREDIT: FBI
Hania Aguilar. CREDIT: FBI

The State Department has denied a temporary visa that would have allowed Hania Aguilar’s father to attend his 13-year-old daughter’s funeral on Saturday. The move comes amid President Donald Trump’s widespread crackdown on immigration, both legal and illegal.

The U.S. embassy in Guatemala denied Noé Aguilar’s application for a temporary visa because it said he does not have strong roots in his home country, Aguilar’s attorney, Naimeh Salem, told CNN. Immigration officials often judge whether someone is a risk for overstaying a temporary visa based on how strong their ties are to their home country.

“I’m fine in my own country,” Aguilar told CNN. “I have work here. I only wanted a day or two to bury my daughter.”

Hania’s case has shocked the country. On Nov. 5, the eighth grader was forced into an SUV outside her home at Rosewood Mobile Home Park in rural Lumberton, North Carolina. Her body was discovered beside a road over two weeks later.

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On Saturday, police arrested 34-year-old Michael Ray McLellan on a charge of first degree murder along with several charges related to rape, statutory rape, kidnapping, and larceny.

Aguilar told CNN he will “either stay home or take a long walk alone” during the funeral on Saturday. He last saw Hania in 2005, when they lived together in U.S. before he moved back to Guatemala. But they spoke on the phone and he would get updates from her mother.

“She was very far away but she was always close in my heart and mind,” Aguilar told CNN.

Hania’s grandfather and a maternal aunt were able to get visas to attend her funeral, CNN reported.

The Trump administration has cracked down on both legal and illegal immigration — separating children from their parents who cross the southwest border in between ports of entry, slowing down the process of issuing high-skilled work visas, limiting protected status for some legal immigrants, and even considering ways to end birthright citizenship.

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It’s not clear whether Aguilar is a casualty of that crackdown. But Salem, his lawyer, told The New York Times that his case stands out among the many similar cases she’s worked on. Even bipartisan attempts by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D) and U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) proved unsuccessful.

The State Department declined to comment directly on Aguilar’s case but told CNN it handles all visa applications according to the law.

“The Department of State makes every effort to facilitate legitimate travel by international visitors,” spokeswoman Marlo Cross-Durant said in a statements. “We are also fully committed to administering U.S. immigration law and ensuring the integrity and security of our country’s borders.”

Aguilar is adamant that he only wants to visit the U.S. to mourn Hania — not as a ploy to immigrate here under the cover of his daughter’s death.

“He has no desire to come to the U.S.,” Salem, his lawyer, told The Times. “He wanted to kiss his daughter goodbye.”