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8-year-old girl dies in U.S. Border Patrol custody in Texas

The death comes as the number of migrants seeking to cross the U.S.-Mexico border appears to have dropped significantly since the lifting of Title 42.

An 8-year-old girl died after suffering a “medical emergency” while in U.S. Border Patrol custody in Texas on Wednesday, authorities said.

The girl and her family were being held at a facility in the city of Harlingen, near the Mexico border, Customs and Border Protection said in a statement.

“Emergency Medical Services were called to the station and transported her to the local hospital where she was pronounced dead,” the statement said, adding that the Office of Professional Responsibility would conduct an investigation as is standard protocol in the case of a death.

A family member identified the girl as Anadith Reyes, “a happy girl” who was born with a heart condition in Panama to Honduran parents.

Anadith Reyes
Anadith ReyesCourtesy Lorna Santos

Anadith’s parents were coming to the U.S. in the hopes of continuing treatment for the girl, Lorna Santos, the girl’s aunt, told Noticias Telemundo.

Santos said Anadith’s mother saw the United States as a “country of opportunities” for her daughter and went to cross the border from Mexico earlier this month. Santos said Anadith, her parents and two other siblings crossed the border together.

Santos became emotional as she said that her sister called her to say Anadith had died and “we no longer have her in this world.”

Anadith had recently “not been feeling well” and tested positive for the flu, Santos said.  

According to Santos, her mother had taken Anadith several times to be checked out by authorities while in custody, Santos said, and Wednesday morning the girl “wasn’t feeling well again” with pain in her back and “shortness of breath.”

After the mother brought Anadith again to be checked out by medical personnel, they took her to the hospital, Santos said.

“They left her there in the waiting room and that’s where the girl died,” Santos said.

Santos questioned why border authorities kept Anadith detained for days considering the girl’s medical condition. 

CBP said it had contacted the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and the Harlingen Police Department about the incident.

Sgt. Larry Moore, a spokesman for the Harlingen Police Department, told the Associated Press he had no information about the death.

The death comes days after a 17-year-old unaccompanied migrant from Honduras died at a facility run by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement in Florida.

The Honduran government named him as Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza and called for a full investigation and a criminal investigation if any wrongdoing is found.

On May 12, Title 42 was lifted — a Covid-19 pandemic-related restriction that put limits on immigration. Amid fears of a big influx of migrants, and after an initial surge, the numbers returned to normal.

Blas Nuñez-Neto, assistant secretary for border & immigration policy at the Department for Homeland Security, told reporters in a briefing Wednesday that the daily average of “ “encounters” with migrants seeking to cross the border since May 12 had fallen from more than 10,000 to just over 4,400, including less than 4,000 on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“This represents a decrease of 56%, or less than half of the average encountered in the four days leading up to the title the lifting of Title 42 when the Border Patrol encountered an average of 10,100 individuals each day,” he said.

In the four days after Title 42 was lifted, Border Patrol processed and released more than 6,000 migrants into the U.S. without court dates or the ability to track them.

Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala are currently the most popular countries of origin for migrants attempting to cross the border, he said.