7-Year-Old Dies in Federal Custody 12/14 06:28
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) -- A 7-year-old girl who crossed the U.S.-Mexico
border with her father last week died after being taken into the custody of the
U.S. Border Patrol, federal immigration authorities confirmed Thursday.
The Washington Post reports the girl died of dehydration and shock more than
eight hours after she was arrested by agents near Lordsburg, New Mexico. The
girl was from Guatemala and was traveling with a group of 163 people who
approached agents to turn themselves in on Dec. 6.
It's unknown what happened to the girl during the eight hours before she
started having seizures and was flown to an El Paso hospital.
In a statement, Customs and Border Protection said the girl had not eaten or
consumed water in several days.
The agency did not provide The Associated Press with the statement it gave
to the Post, despite repeated requests.
Processing 163 immigrants in one night could have posed challenges for the
agency, whose detention facilities are meant to be temporary and don't usually
fit that many people.
When a Border Patrol agent arrests someone, that person gets processed at a
facility but usually spends no more than 72 hours in custody before they are
either transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or, if they're
Mexican, quickly deported home.
The girl's death raises questions about whether border agents knew she was
ill and whether she was fed anything or given anything to drink during the
eight-plus hours she was in custody.
Immigrants, attorneys and activists have long raised issues with the
conditions of Border Patrol holding cells. 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.
The Border Patrol has seen an increasing trend of large groups of
immigrants, many with young children, walking up to agents and turning
themselves in. Most are Central American and say they are fleeing violence.
They turn themselves in instead of trying to circumvent authorities, many with
plans to apply for asylum.
Agents in Arizona see groups of over 100 people on a regular basis,
sometimes including infants and toddlers.
Arresting such groups poses logistical problems for agents who have to wait
on transport vans that are equipped with baby seats to take them to processing
facilities, some which are at least half hour north of the border.
The death of the 7-year-old comes after a toddler died in May just after
being released from an ICE family detention facility in Texas, and as the
administration of Donald Trump attempts to ban people from asking for asylum if
they crossed the border illegally. A federal appeals court has temporarily
blocked that ban, but the administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to
reinstate it Tuesday.
Cynthia Pompa, advocacy manager for the ACLU Border Rights Center, said
migrant deaths increased last year even as the number of border crossing
"This tragedy represents the worst possible outcome when people, including
children, are held in inhumane conditions. Lack of accountability, and a
culture of cruelty within CBP have exacerbated policies that lead to migrant
deaths," Pompa said.