The mother of a Haitian refugee who drowned in the waters off Palm Beach as she was being smuggled into the U.S. last month is searching for answers in her daughter's death.
Simone Jeanty, mother of Judith Valentin, believes her daughter may have been gang-raped and thrown overboard as she was trying to enter the U.S. with nine other refugees on August 28. Her body washed up on shore.
Speaking at a news conference in Little Haiti Thursday, Jeanty said the allegations came from some of the other refugees who were on the boat with her 24-year-old daughter and who are still being detained in Palm Beach.
"I'm asking for justice, I'm asking for justice," Jeanty said in Haitian Creole that was translated by Marlene Bastien, the executive director of Haitian Women of Miami Inc.
Jeanty was fearful about her daughter leaving Haiti to come to the U.S., but supported her desire to do that.
"I was scared, however I thought that there was a chance that she would have a better life," she said through the translator.
Valentin wanted to improve her mother's life as well.
"She say Mommy, one day I'm gonna take the load off of you, you will not get wet in the rain anymore, you will not need to carry this load anymore, one day I will take this load off of you," Jeanty recalled.
Jeanty was granted a humanitarian visa to come to the U.S. to participate in her daughter's funeral, which is scheduled for Saturday morning.
Officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday that they're investigating the incident as a smuggling operation, but haven't heard the allegations of rape and murder.
Palm Beach Police officials said they would have to determine if the allegations are credible before beginning an investigation. They said the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner's Office's preliminary report listed the cause of death as an accidental drowning.
"As a mom, she needs to know what happened, and I believe she has a right to know what happened, especially in light of these allegations," Bastien commented.
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