Buried alone: Parents of girl killed by hit-and-run driver forwent her Mexican funeral amid immigration crackdown

‘We cannot ignore this’: Family, pols demand justice for girl killed by hit-and-run driver in Bushwick
In memoriam: Reyna Candia, right, the mother of 4-year-old Luz Gonzalez, and her godmother Fabiola Mendieta, left, show a picture of the little girl who was killed during a hit-and-run on Sunday.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

They didn’t get to say goodbye.

The parents of the 4-year-old killed by a hit-and-run driver who ran over her on a Bushwick sidewalk last month sent the girl’s body to be buried in their native Mexico after a funeral the immigrants chose not to attend, due to fears their attempt at the American dream would be robbed by being denied reentry to the country.

Young Luz Gonzalez’s godmother said the White House’s crackdown on immigration led her parents — who she said are not citizens like their American-born daughter, but are working to apply for green cards — to forgo attending her July 3 burial, and instead fly her corpse to the Latin American nation alone and hold a commemorative service in Kings County that same week.

“Right now, with the president we have, it’s hard for anyone to leave the country and try to come back,” said Fabiola Mendieta.

On June 24, motorist Jeanette Maria backed out of a Bushwick laundromat’s parking lot — which the city has since deemed illegal and ordered to close — turned, and accelerated into Gonzalez and her mother, killing the girl and injuring the mom, then fled the scene.

Cops stopped Maria as she drove away from the lot at Hart Street and Wyckoff Avenue, but did not arrest or charge her, prompting Gonzalez’s friends and relatives, along with activists, to stage a series of marches from the laundromat to the 83rd Precinct’s Bushwick station house demanding explanations as to why the driver — who some allege is being protected by law enforcement due to rumored Police Department connections — still walks free.

Deciding to stay in Brooklyn while their daughter was laid to rest in their Mexican hometown — where one of Gonzalez’s four brothers, grandparents, and other kin still live, according to Mendieta — was heart-wrenching for the dad, who works at a local business, and stay-at-home mom, according to the godmother.

But the parents, who Mendieta claimed have been questioned about their immigration status before, ultimately chose to stay because going would have likely meant they couldn’t return for months — forcing them to abandon their attempts to seek justice for their little girl, she said.

“It was a hard decision because they really wanted to go with her,” said Mendieta, who also leads a local Mexican-American advocacy group. “I told them, ‘You have to do what you have to do, but if she was my kid, I’d want justice.’ ”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

More from Around New York