U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is facing calls for an investigation after a seven-year-old girl, reportedly from Guatemala, crossed into the U.S. and then died in custody.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed late Thursday night a Washington Post report, which said a girl died of shock and dehydration after CBP took her into custody with her father south of Lordsburg, N.M. on Dec. 6.
Coverage of U.S. migrants on Globalnews.ca:
Homeland Security said an “accompanied female juvenile detainee” started having seizures after she was detained.
Border Patrol later determined that she had a fever of 105.7 degrees Fahrenheit — about seven degrees higher than normal body temperature.
She was taken via helicopter to a hospital in El Paso where she was later revived after she went into cardiac arrest. But the girl then died less than a day after she was airlifted there.
She had “not eaten or consumed water for several days,” said a CBP statement to the Post.
In its statement, DHS said Border Patrol “takes care of individuals in their custody and does everything in their power to keep them safe.”
“Every year the Border Patrol saves hundreds of people who are overcome by the elements between our ports of entry.
“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.”
DHS said that travelling north illegally is “extremely dangerous,” and that “drug cartels, human smugglers and the elements pose deadly risks to anyone who comes across the border illegally.”
It begged parents to “not put themselves or their children at risk attempting to enter illegally. Please present yourselves at a port of entry and seek to enter legally and safely.”
DHS went on to extend its “sincerest condolences” to the child’s family, and said border agents “took every possible step to save the child’s life under the most trying of circumstances.
“As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child.”
The Post reported that the girl and her father crossed into the U.S. along with a group of 163 people who turned themselves into U.S. authorities.
Trump has stepped up enforcement along the border after using rhetoric that has suggested a crisis.
There were just over 300,000 apprehensions at the border last year, down from nearly 900,000 a decade earlier, according to CBP data.
Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler tweeted that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen would face demands for “immediate answers” before the House Judiciary Committee next week.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union’s Border Rights Center called for a “rigorous investigation into how this tragedy happened and serious reforms to prevent future deaths.”
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