A 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who was detained by Customs and Border Protection agents after illegally crossing the southern border into the United States last week died after suffering from a high fever and seizures, said federal immigration authorities.
The girl was in custody for eight hours after crossing into New Mexico with a large group of migrants. She began having seizures, was determined to have a 105.7-degree fever, and was transported by Air Ambulance to a hospital in El Paso, Texas, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security.
She went into cardiac arrest at Providence Children’s Hospital, but was revived, before dying a short time later, according to DHS. The initial diagnosis by physicians at Providence Children’s Hospital listed the cause of death as septic shock, fever and dehydration, according to a separate statement provided to The Washington Post.
According to the statement given to the Post, the girl had not eaten or consumed food for several days before her death, although it remains unclear whether she received any nourishment while in CBP custody. The agency did not provide The Associated Press or USA Today with the statement it gave to the Post, despite repeated requests.
CBP officials said they plan to hold a briefing with reporters later in the day on Friday.
The girl’s death is sure to revive concerns over the Trump administration’s treatment of minors following a tumultuous year when it was ordered to stop separating parents from their children along the border, and criticized for firing tear gas into a group of Central American migrants in Tijuana that included women and children.
DHS officials said they lamented the girl’s death, issued their “sincerest condolences” to the girl’s family and reiterated that Border Patrol agents took “every possible step” to save her life. But, they made clear that such tragedies will happen when so many people make the long and dangerous trek to enter the U.S. illegally.
“Every year the Border Patrol saves hundreds of people who are overcome by the elements between our ports of entry,” the Homeland Security statement read. “Unfortunately, despite our best efforts and the best efforts of the medical team treating the child, we were unable to stop this tragedy from occurring. As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child.”
Lawyers, immigration advocates and human rights groups have long decried the conditions in which migrants, especially children, are housed along the southern border.
In Tucson, an ongoing lawsuit claims holding cells are filthy, extremely cold and lacking basic necessities such as blankets. A judge overseeing that lawsuit has ordered the agency’s Tucson Sector, which patrols much of the Arizona-Mexico border, to provide blankets and mats to sleep on and to continually turn over surveillance footage from inside the cells.
In July, a federal judge went a step further, ordering the Trump administration to transfer all undocumented immigrant minors out of the Shiloh Residential Treatment Center in Manvel, Texas, due to allegations of abuse, overmedication and the use of unapproved psychotropic drugs on the children.
Those troubles come as the number of minors crossing into the U.S has skyrocketed in recent years.
The overall level of illegal immigration remains at historic lows, with the overall number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. — about 10.7 million — falling to 12-year lows in 2016. But the nature of migration to the U.S. has changed dramatically, with more unaccompanied minors and family units crossing the border and requesting asylum.
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