Border Patrol officials probe death of 7-year old - Albuquerque Journal

Border Patrol officials probe death of 7-year old

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

EL PASO – An internal investigation is under way into the death of a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala who died last week after being taken into Border Patrol custody in New Mexico.

The girl and her father were in a group of 163 migrants who turned themselves in to four Border Patrol agents near the Antelope Wells port of entry in the New Mexico bootheel on Dec. 6.

Eight hours later, while in Border Patrol custody, the girl began having seizures during a 95-mile bus ride to Lordsburg, according to Customs and Border Protection officials.

The girl’s father notified agents she was sick and had vomiting shortly before the bus departed at 5 a.m. An hour and a half later, when the bus arrived at the Border Patrol’s small operating station in Lordsburg, the child had stopped breathing.

There wasn’t much Border Patrol agents could do during the bus ride and no faster way to get medical treatment, according to CBP officials.

In Lordsburg, Border Patrol agents revived the girl twice, and Hidalgo Medical Services arrived to provide care before the girl was airlifted to a hospital in El Paso. She died less than 24 hours later.

 

The hospital listed her cause of death as septic shock, fever and dehydration.

Lawmakers from New Mexico and Texas demanded answers in a Friday letter to the leadership of CBP and the Department of Homeland Security.

Democratic members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham, along with Democratic Reps. Marc Veasey and Joaquin Castro of Texas in a letter wrote: “We remain deeply concerned about the Administration’s anti-immigrant enforcement policies against individuals who pose no threat to the nation, as well as the administration’s policies and practices that may be causing asylum seekers to attempt a dangerous journey crossing between the ports of entry.” They also called it “unacceptable” that it took more than a week for the child’s death to become public.

“Congress requires CPB to report the death of any individual in CBP custody within 24 hours, including relevant details regarding the circumstances of the fatality,” they wrote.

During a conference call Friday with media about the circumstances of the child’s death, CBP officials said the group of migrants in custody, including the girl and her father, had access to water, food and restrooms. But an earlier statement from CBP in The Washington Post said, “She reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days.”

CBP officers at busy ports of entry in Texas and California have begun telling people who arrive seeking asylum they must wait in Mexico for their turn to make a claim. Migration authorities in Mexico have been put in charge of the growing list of migrants seeking asylum.

Rather than wait at legal ports of entry, some groups of migrants are crossing illegally and turning themselves in to Border Patrol agents while asking for asylum. The 7-year-old girl and her father were in a group that turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents near the remote Antelope Wells border crossing, which was closed at the time they arrived.

“Jailing children and allowing them to die on our watch does not make America great,” said Peter Simonson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico. “This child’s death was the inevitable result of this administration’s cruel and inhumane border enforcement policies.”

“When you turn away people who are legally seeking asylum at official ports of entry, they attempt to make contact with U.S. officials in remote and dangerous areas, and people die,” Simonson said in a statement released by the organization.

The initial screening of the group of migrants, including the 7-year old girl, revealed no evidence of health issues, according to Customs and Border Protection officials.

The El Paso County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed it performed an autopsy on the child, but final results won’t be available for at least six weeks.

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