WASHINGTON – A 7-year-old Guatemalan girl died last week, about a day after she and her father were arrested for crossing the Mexican border illegally, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said on Thursday.
She suffered from septic shock and dehydration, the agency said.
The girl and her father were arrested in a group of 163 people near Lordsburg, N.M., a remote desert area about 160 miles west of El Paso, Texas, at around 10 p.m. on Dec. 6.
The girl reportedly hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink for several days and began suffering seizures about eight hours after being taken into custody, according to Customs and Border Protection.
The agency said emergency medical personnel discovered the girl had a fever of 105.3 degrees and she was flown to a hospital in El Paso. There she suffered cardiac arrest and was revived but died Saturday morning, the agency said.
The girl’s death was first reported by The Washington Post.
In Washington, the White House didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“Border Patrol always takes care of individuals in their custody and does everything in their power to keep them safe,” the Department of Homeland Security said late Thursday. “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.”
The Border Patrol reported arresting a record of more than 107,000 immigrants traveling as families during the last budget year, which ended in September. Such migrants routinely turn themselves into border agents after crossing the border and are taken to Border Patrol stations designed to hold migrants for a matter of hours.
It is unclear if the girl received any food or water after her arrest or if she was given medical attention before the seizures started.
Migrants are generally given brief medical exams after their arrests. The agency said her father told authorities the girl was fine.
The father remains in El Paso and is in contact with the Guatemalan consulate, the agency said.
The area where the girl and her father were arrested is a remote patch of desert in southern New Mexico where migrants can walk for hours or even days without being spotted.
Every year hundreds of migrants die trying to cross the Mexican border. During the 2017 budget year, 294 people died. In the El Paso Sector, which includes New Mexico, eight deaths were reported.
It is unclear how long the girl and her father had been in the U.S. or when they left Guatemala.
Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility and the inspector general are investigating.