When 13-year-old Hania Aguilar is laid to rest in North Carolina on Saturday her father will be nearly 3,000 miles away.
The US State Department has denied a temporary visa for Noe Aguilar to travel from Guatemala to attend services for his teenage daughter, according to Naimeh Salem, the father’s attorney.
“He is desperate, he is not feeling well,” Salem said of her client via email on Friday.
“He cannot understand why they are not letting him come to the funeral. It is a very difficult situation to comprehend for him or anybody for that matter. We will not give up yet.”
Hania’s body was found last week in water off a rural road after she was abducted last month outside her home in Lumberton, North Carolina, police said.
Salem said her client has requested another interview to solicit the visa but has not heard back from US embassy officials in Guatemala.
“They said he doesn’t have enough ties to the country to issue him a temporary visa to go to Hania’s funeral,” Salem told CNN affiliate WSOC.
State Department spokeswoman Marlo Cross-Durant said in a statement that details of individual visa cases are confidential.
“All visa applications are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and other applicable laws,” the statement said.
“The Department of State makes every effort to facilitate legitimate travel by international visitors. We are also fully committed to administering U.S. immigration law and ensuring the integrity and security of our country’s borders.”
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has asked the State Department to reconsider the father’s application, and about 10,000 people have signed a petition in support of the request, WSOC reported.
Hania was abducted outside her home in rural Lumberton on the morning of November 5, authorities said. Her body was found last week in Robeson County, Lumberton police Chief Michael McNeill said.
Lumberton is in southeastern North Carolina, near Interstate 95, about 95 miles from Raleigh.
Police said she was kidnapped in a relative’s SUV that was idling in the driveway on a morning before school. Authorities issued an Amber Alert at the time.
A witness saw a man dressed in black and wearing a yellow bandana force Hania into the vehicle. Police said they have no reason to think Hania knew her abductor, and her family is cooperating with the investigation.
The stolen SUV was found abandoned less than 10 miles from Hania’s home at the Rosewood Mobile Home Park, authorities said.