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8-year-old migrant girl dies in U.S. Border Patrol custody, officials say

8-year-old dies in U.S. border custody
8-year-old migrant girl dies in U.S. border custody 05:44

Washington — An 8-year-old migrant girl from Panama with a heart condition died in federal U.S. custody on Wednesday after crossing the southern border with her family, officials said. 

The migrant girl died after experiencing a "medical emergency" inside a U.S. Border Patrol station in Harlingen, Texas, where she was being held with family members, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a statement Wednesday. The girl was pronounced dead at a local hospital, the agency added.

Enrique Reina, Honduras' secretary of foreign affairs, identified the girl as Anadith Tanay Reyes Álvarez, noting she had been detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents alongside her parents and two brothers. He called for a "thorough investigation" into her death.

In its statement, CBP said the agency was investigating the death, and that it planned to disclose "additional information" later on. Congressional officials were also notified of the death Wednesday.

"Consistent with CBP protocol, the Office of Professional Responsibility is conducting an investigation of the incident," the agency said. "The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General and the Harlingen Police Department were also notified."

Reyes Álvarez was born in Panama but her parents are from Honduras, according to José Leonardo Navas, the Honduran consul in McAllen, Texas. Leonardo Navas told CBS News on Thursday that he interviewed the father, who told him Reyes Álvarez was born with heart problems. The parents remain in the U.S. as officials review their immigration cases, Leonardo Navas added.

The girl's death marks the first known death of a migrant child in Border Patrol custody since the Trump administration, when several minors died, including because of flu infections. 

Last week, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials disclosed the death of a 17-year-old migrant teen from Honduras who was being housed in one of the department's shelters for unaccompanied minors in Florida. HHS is also investigating that death, which officials said likely stemmed from an epileptic seizure.

U.S. border officials transfer migrant children to HHS if they cross the southern border without parents or legal guardians. In March, a 4-year-old girl from Honduras described as "medically fragile" died in HHS custody, but her death was not reported until last week.

At least six migrant children died in federal custody in 2018 and 2019, most of them in Border Patrol custody or soon after being released by the agency.

The deaths of migrant children during the Trump administration sparked widespread criticism from advocates and Democrats. On Thursday, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a group of Democratic members of Congress, said it had asked Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to provide a briefing on Reyes Álvarez's death.

"We have a fundamental duty to protect migrants in our care and custody, any death is unacceptable," the caucus said in a statement. "We cannot go back to 2019."

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