Girl (7) dies in US custody after crossing border from Mexico
Guatemalan reportedly suffered dehydration and shock more than eight hours after arrest
US Customs and Border Protection officials stand guard on the US-Mexico border. Photograph: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
A seven-year old girl died in the custody of US border control agents after crossing the border with Mexico last week, sparking outrage among Democrats and human rights groups.
The Guatemalan girl entered the US with her father and other migrants and was, along with the others, detained by border control agents. On Thursday the girl began having seizures while after being in custody for eight hours, according to reports. She was flown to a hospital in El Paso, Texas, and died within 24 hours. Border control sources told the Washington Post they believed she had not had food or drink in days.
The Department of Homeland Security issued a statement confirming the death.
“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,” it said. “Once again, we are begging parents to not put themselves or their children at risk attempting to enter illegally.”
Postmortem results are not expected for some weeks.
The White House on Friday rejected any responsibility for the death of the seven-year-old. An administration spokesman said it was a “tragic situation” but called on Congress to “disincentivise” migrants from making the journey to the southern US border.
News of the girl’s death was greeted with shock and disbelief by many senior political figures, with Californian senator Kamala Harris calling for a “full and thorough account” of what happened.
The death of the child is likely to refocus attention on the Trump administration’s immigration policy and conditions at detention centres, following an international outcry in the summer over the separation of children from their parents after they had crossed into the US. Since then, US president Donald Trump has dispatched thousands of troops to the border in anticipation of the arrival of a caravan of migrants making its way north through central America.
Mr Trump claimed this week that, as a result of the security measures, migrants who had been heading to the US were now staying in Mexico. Mexican officials arrested hundreds of migrants in the Tijuana area this week, but thousands of migrants are still gathering south of the US border, in anticipation of crossing.
Negotiations in Washington are continuing over funding for Mr Trump’s proposed border wall and the administration’s immigration policy. With the government due to shut down next Friday if spending Bills are not signed, Democrats are refusing to comply with the president’s request for up to $5 billion in border security funding.
Following an acrimonious Oval Office meeting with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer over the border funding issue, Mr Trump said this week that he would do “whatever it takes” to secure his wall.
He accused Democrats of being hypocrities, noting that they had endorsed funds for border barriers in the past. “We need to have the wall. We need border security. Whatever it takes to get border security, I will do it,” he said.