The mother of an 8-year-old girl who died in border police custody says her requests for hospital treatment were denied
The mother of an 8-year-old girl who died in Border Police custody said Friday officials had repeatedly ignored pleas for her medically weak daughter to be hospitalized because she felt pain in her bones, had difficulty breathing and couldn’t could go.
Mabel Alvarez Benedicks said in an emotional phone interview that agents said her daughter’s diagnosis of the flu did not require hospital treatment.
They knew that the girl had suffered from heart problems and sickle cell anemia in the past.
“They killed my daughter because she couldn’t breathe for almost a day and a half,” the mother said. “She was crying and begging for her life and they ignored her. You haven’t done anything for her.
The girl died on Wednesday, her mother said, marking the family’s ninth day in border police custody.
According to government guidelines, individuals cannot be detained for more than 72 hours, a rule that is broken during periods of unusual occupancy.
The report almost certainly raises questions about whether border police were handling the situation properly, as it was the second child death in two weeks after an onslaught of illegal border crossings strained detention facilities.
Roderick Kise, a spokesman for the Border Police’s parent agency, Customs and Border Protection, said he could not comment beyond an initial comment as the death was the subject of an ongoing investigation.
In that statement, CBP said the girl experienced a “medical emergency” at a ward in Harlingen, Texas and died at a hospital later in the day.
Alvarez Benedicks, 35, said she, her husband and three children, ages 14, 12 and 8, crossed the border into Brownsville, Texas on May 9.
After a doctor diagnosed 8-year-old Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez with the flu, the family were taken to Harlingen train station on May 14. It was unclear why the family was held for so long.
Anadith woke up on her first day at Harlingen station with a fever and a headache, according to her mother, who said the station was dusty and smelled of urine.
When she reported her daughter’s bone pain to an agent, she said he replied, “Oh, your daughter is growing up.” That’s why her bones hurt. Give her water.’”
“I just looked at him,” Alvarez Benedicks said. “How would he know what to do if he’s not a doctor?”
She said a doctor told her the pain was related to the flu. She asked for an ambulance to take her daughter to the hospital for breathing difficulties, but was refused.
“I felt like they didn’t believe me,” she said.
Anadith was given saline fluids, a shower and fever medication to bring her temperature down, but her breathing problems persisted, her mother said, adding that a sore throat prevented her from eating and she stopped walking.
At one point, a doctor told the parents to return if Anadith passed out, Alvarez Benedicks said. Her request for an ambulance was denied again on Wednesday when her blood pressure was checked.
An ambulance was called later in the day after Anadith became limp and unconscious with blood pouring from her mouth, her mother said.
She insists that her daughter was not checked for vital signs at the Border Patrol Station before she went to the hospital.
The family is staying at a migrant shelter in McAllen, Texas, and is looking for money to bring their daughter’s remains to New York City, their final destination in the United States.
Anadith, whose parents are Hondurans, was born in Panama with a congenital heart defect.
Three years ago she had an operation, which her mother described as successful. It inspired Anadith’s desire to become a doctor.
Her death came a week after the death of a 17-year-old Honduran boy, Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza, in U.S. Department of Health and Human Services custody. He was traveling alone.
A rush to the border before the pandemic-related asylum limits expired, known as Title 42, brought extraordinary pressure.
Border guards detained an average of 10,100 people per day over four days last week, compared to a daily average of 5,200 in March.
According to a court filing, as of May 10, a day before pandemic-related asylum restrictions expired, border guards had 28,717 people in custody, double the number two weeks earlier.
By Sunday, the number of people in custody had fallen 23% to 22,259, still an all-time high.
The detention capacity is about 17,000, according to a government document last year, and the administration has set up makeshift giant tents like one in San Diego that opened in January, which can hold about 500 people.
On Sunday, the average detention time was 77 hours.