A Sixth Migrant Child Has Died in US Custody

Federal authorities noted that a 10-year-old girl from El Salvador has become the sixth migrant child to die in US Custody. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told CBS News the girl died on September 29, 2018, and was one of the first six migrant children to die after being detained by border agents. Mark Weber, a spokesperson for HHS, told the news station that the girl had a history of congenital heart defects.

The child was taken under the care of an Office of Refugee Resettlement facility in San Antonio, Texas, on March 4, 2018. Weber told the news station that, by that time, the child was in a “medically fragile” state. "Following a surgical procedure, complications left the child in a comatose state. She was transported to a nursing facility in Phoenix, Arizona for palliative care in May after release from a San Antonio hospital," Weber said in a statement to CBS News. "On September 26, she was transferred to an Omaha, Nebraska nursing facility to be closer to her family. On September 29, the child was transported to Children's Hospital of Omaha where she passed due to fever and respiratory distress."

The news comes just a few days after a 16-year-old boy from Guatemala died on Monday, May 20, in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas after he was diagnosed with the flu, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told the Arizona Republic. The boy was identified by federal officials as Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, who crossed the border into the US with a group of more than 70 other undocumented migrants near Hidalgo, Texas, earlier this month, according to the publication.

Hernandez Vasquez spent six days in CBP custody in McAllen Texas, when he reported that he was not feeling well to staff members at the facility he was staying in, according to the newspaper. A contracted nurse practitioner diagnosed the 16-year-old with Influenza A and prescribed him Tamiflu. He was transported to Weslaco Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas, and continued his treatment for 17 to 18 hours. During one of the welfare checks, agents found him unresponsive in a temporary holding room, the Arizona Republic reported. CBP told the newspaper that medical staff attempted to revive him but were unable to. The teen became the fifth reported person to die in CBP custody.

"The men and women of U.S. Customs and Border Protection are saddened by the tragic loss of this young man and our condolences are with his family," CBP Acting Commissioner John Sanders said in a statement to the newspaper. "CBP is committed to the health, safety and humane treatment of those in our custody."

Earlier this month, two-year-old Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vásquez died while in custody after he became sick in April, The Guardian reported. Another 16-year-old and an unaccompanied minor, Juan de León Gutiérrez, died on April 30 in a detention center in south Texas, according to the publication.

In December, Jakelin Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala, reportedly died due to “a rapidly progressive infection” while staying in a detention center, NBC News previously reported. Another migrant child from Guatemala, 8-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo, died of the flu while in Border Patrol custody, according to The Washington Post.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.