An 8-year-old girl who died Wednesday while held at the US border has been detained for a week, more than double the time the government generally intends to detain migrants, especially children, according to two people familiar with the situation.
The girl and her family were being held in a Customs and Border Protection facility in Harlingen, Texas, where they were waiting to be deported on a flight to Honduras. The family were among thousands of migrants who crossed into the country’s southern border ahead of the expiration of a pandemic-era immigration rule that authorities feared would lead to a large influx of migrants and overcrowded detention facilities at the time. confine.
Those familiar with the situation spoke on condition of anonymity because the child’s death is under internal investigation.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Honduras identified the girl as Anadith Danay Reyes Álvarez, a Panamanian citizen known to her family as Ana, who was born with heart problems. Her parents, who are Hondurans, traveled to the United States so their daughter could have « a better life, » said Antonio García, the country’s deputy foreign minister.
Customs and border protection officials She said Those emergency medical services had transported the girl to a hospital on Wednesday, where she died. Biden administration officials did not respond to further questions about the circumstances surrounding the child’s death, citing internal review. A border official in Texas who was not authorized to speak publicly said Ana had a serious medical condition that officials were not immediately aware of.
Although all migrants receive health checks when taken into federal custody, the death of a child is at the heart of concerns over the government’s policy of detaining children for any length of time and particularly in crowded settings. While there is no law or official guidance on how long undocumented migrants should be detained while in border custody, the government typically aims for around three days.
Over the past week, authorities have struggled with overcrowded border facilities, which quickly outpaced capacity after a spike in illegal migration ahead of last week’s lifting of the pandemic-era public health rule, known as Title 42.
That policy had allowed officials to quickly expel some migrants, instead of holding them in custody. Since its expiry, officials have reverted to policies that include longer processing times for migrants.
On May 17, the day of Ana’s death, migrants were held for an average of four and a half days, according to internal data obtained by the New York Times, compared to an average of just under three days on May 10.
« The bottom line is that you need to take the families out of CBP custody because conditions generally are substandard and not appropriate for the detention of children, » said Wendy Young, president of advocacy group Kids in Need of Defense. Scientific studies concluded that the detention of children, even if they are with their parents, can cause developmental and mental health problems.
Brandon Judd, the leader of the Border Patrol union, said officers had expressed concerns about crowded detention centers.
« There’s a reason you have a certain ability, and it’s for everyone’s safety, » Mr. Judd said. « When you go beyond that capacity, security levels will go down a lot. »
In 2018 and 2019, when the number of migrant crossings reached high levels, the Trump administration came under sharp criticism for the death of minors in the custody of the customs and border protection.
In an interview with Univision active On May 18, Lorna Santos, Ana’s aunt, said the boy’s mother told officials at the Customs and Border Protection Facility that Ana was having difficulty breathing, but a member of the medical staff dismissed her concerns. . Ms Santos said the girl’s mother told her Ana later passed out and was taken to hospital, where she died in the waiting room.
Wilson Paz, the director of the Honduras Migrant Protection Service, said Ana’s father told Honduran authorities he underwent surgery in Panama three years ago to address a membrane that blocked blood from reaching his Heart. Mr Paz said she was tested for Covid-19 when she went to the US and was diagnosed with the flu.
The Biden administration has managed a historic surge in illegal migration over the past two years as people flee authoritarian states, violence and extreme poverty.
While the administration added more staff to help process migrants in the country and increased the ability of Customs and Border Protection to detain migrants before Title 42 expired, it wasn’t enough to avoid the backups that led to the overcrowded last week.
In the week since the policy ended, however, the number of illegal crossings has dropped significantly, averaging 3,000-4,000 arrests a day, the Department of Homeland Security said, compared with nearly 10,000 arrested a day over the period. where Ana and her family crossed paths. Most of the migrants came from Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. Since May 12, more than 11,000 migrants have been deported to Mexico or repatriated, the department said in a statement on Friday.
On May 10, Angel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza, a 17 year old Honduran boy, died while in a Florida shelter overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency charged with overseeing the care of migrant children entering the United States without a parent or guardian. THE said the boy’s mother he was epileptic but had not been ill when he traveled to the United States.
Zolan Kanno-Young contributed to the reporting from Washington.