A 7-year-old girl from Guatemala died of dehydration and shock after she was taken into Border Patrol custody last week for crossing from Mexico into the United States illegally with her father and a large group of people along a remote span of New Mexico desert, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Thursday.
The child's death is likely to intensify scrutiny of detention conditions at Border Patrol stations and immigration facilities that are increasingly overwhelmed by large numbers of families seeking asylum in the United States.
According to Customs and Border Protection records, the girl and her father were taken into custody about 10 p.m. Dec. 6 south of Lordsburg, N.M., as part of a group of 163 people who approached U.S. agents to surrender.
More than eight hours later, the child began having seizures at 6:25 a.m., records show. Emergency responders, who arrived soon after, measured her body temperature at 105.7 degrees, and according to a statement from Customs and Border Protection, she "reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days."
After a helicopter flight to Providence Children's Hospital in El Paso, the child went into cardiac arrest and "was revived," according to the agency. "However, the child did not recover and died at the hospital less than 24 hours after being transported," the immigration agency said.
An initial diagnosis by physicians at Providence hospital listed the cause of death as septic shock, fever and dehydration, the Customs and Border Protection agency said.
The agency did not release the name of the girl or her father, but the father remains in El Paso awaiting a meeting with Guatemalan consular officials, according to the agency. The agency is investigating the incident to ensure appropriate policies were followed, it said.
Food and water are typically provided to migrants in Border Patrol custody, and it wasn't immediately clear Thursday if the girl received provisions and a medical exam before the onset of seizures.
"Our sincerest condolences go out to the family of the child," Customs and Border Protection spokesman Andrew Meehan said in a statement to The Washington Post.
"Border Patrol agents took every possible step to save the child's life under the most trying of circumstances," Meehan said. "As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child."
The American Civil Liberties Union blamed "lack of accountability, and a culture of cruelty within [Customs and Border Protection]" for the girl's death. "The fact that it took a week for this to come to light shows the need for transparency for [Customs and Border Protection]. We call for a rigorous investigation into how this tragedy happened and serious reforms to prevent future deaths," Cynthia Pompa, advocacy manager for the ACLU Border Rights Center, said in a statement.
Though much of the political and media attention has focused in recent weeks on migrant caravans arriving at the Tijuana-San Diego border, large numbers of Central Americans continue to cross the border into Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. The groups sometimes spend days in smugglers' stash houses or walking through remote areas with little food or water before reaching the border.
A Section on 12/14/2018
Print Headline: Guatemalan girl, 7, dies in U.S. custody