A bus carrying migrants near the Mexico-New Mexico border in a photo from 2007.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Limited details are as yet available about the death of a seven-year-old Guatemalan girl who was dehydrated when she and her father turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents near Lordsburg, New Mexico on Dec. 6 to seek asylum in the United States.
The Washington Post, which broke the story of the girl’s death, notes that “food and water are typically provided to migrants in Border Patrol custody” but says it’s not yet known if the girl received any. Democratic Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, who has been active in investigating the conditions in which minors and families are held near the U.S.-Mexico border, said on CNN that he has not seen evidence that the girl, whose name has not been made public, was mistreated. A statement by the Customs and Border Protection agency said the girl “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days” when she entered custody. Eight hours after being taken in, she began to have seizures and was transported to El Paso via helicopter for medical treatment but did not recover. An initial diagnosis listed “septic shock, fever and dehydration” as the cause of her death.
Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a Fox News appearance on Friday that while her “heart goes out” to the family of the deceased girl, they bear responsibility for the incident because they “chose to cross [the border] illegally” in a remote area. (U.S. port-of-entry stations where migrants can legally cross to apply for asylum are often overloaded, and individuals attempting to use them are frequently told to come back at another time.) Nielsen said the girl was given “immediate care” when she was taken into custody but did not elaborate.
Lordsburg, New Mexico has a population of 2,464. The border station housed there is responsible for monitoring 80 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border and 4,256 square miles of land inside the U.S.
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