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October 2, 2023

Child Migrant Who Died in C.B.P. Custody Was Seen by Medical Staff 11 Times

Child Migrant Who Died in C.B.P. Custody Was Seen by Medical Staff 11 Times

Politics|8-Year-Old Migrant Who Died in C.B.P. Custody Was Seen by Medical Staff 11 Times


Initial findings in an internal investigation suggest the child was not provided with proper care. The acting head of the agency said changes to procedures had been made.

The Border Patrol station in Harlingen, Texas, where the child died after requests that she be taken to a hospital were rebuffed.Credit…David Pike/Valley Morning Star, via Associated Press

An 8-year-old girl who died after being held for a week in Customs and Border Protection custody last month was seen by medical professionals 11 times before she was taken to a hospital, according to new details provided by the agency, which is conducting an internal investigation.

While the investigation is continuing, the initial findings suggest that the child, Anadith Danay Reyes Álvarez, a Panamanian national, was not provided proper medical care while she was in government custody. On Thursday, the agency’s acting commissioner, Troy Miller, said that “several medical providers involved in this incident have now been prohibited from working in C.B.P. facilities.”

By Customs and Border Protection’s own standards, Anadith and her family should not have been held in custody for more than three days. But border facilities were significantly overcrowded when the family was apprehended as part of a group of 47 migrants who crossed into Brownsville, Texas, on May 9. The family entered the United States at a time when the number of daily illegal crossings had reached record levels, which Biden administration officials had long predicted could lead to dangerous and potentially inhumane conditions in overcrowded border facilities.

Anadith had suffered from a heart condition since birth and had sickle cell anemia. Her family provided her health history to medical personnel when they were booked into Border Patrol custody in Donna, Texas. But none of the medical personnel she interacted with at a facility where her family was transferred acknowledged being aware of her health history, internal investigators found.

Between the evening of May 14 and the afternoon of May 17, when Anadith died, she was seen nine times by medical professionals at the Border Patrol holding facility in Harlingen, Texas. No one consulted with an on-call pediatrician about her symptoms or treatment.

Before arriving at the Harlingen facility, Anadith was seen by a medical professional on May 10 at a Customs and Border Protection facility in Donna as part of the intake process, and she was seen again on May 14, when she complained of abdominal pain, nasal congestion and a cough. At that time, she was diagnosed with and treated for influenza A. She and her family were transferred to the Harlington facility, where the Border Patrol holds migrants in medical isolation.

A nurse practitioner who saw Anadith told investigators that she had dismissed three or four requests from the child’s mother to call an ambulance or take her to a hospital. Anadith was seen four times by medical personnel on the day she died, but officials did not call for emergency assistance until Anadith’s mother carried her to the health unit a fifth time as Anadith appeared to be having a seizure and soon became unresponsive. The agency said she had been declared dead at the hospital.

Mr. Miller said that the agency had already taken steps to fix “deficiencies” reflected in Anadith’s care. One such step is giving “medically fragile” migrants priority to be quickly processed and released from government custody.

On the day Anadith died, migrants were being held for an average of four and a half days, according to internal data obtained by The New York Times, compared with an average of a little under three days on May 10. Mr. Miller said the average time migrant families were being held in custody had gone down 50 percent two weeks after Anadith’s death.

In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services has pledged to send clinicians from the Public Health Service to certain border facilities next week.

While the number of daily border crossings declined sharply a few days after Anadith and her family arrived in Brownsville, there are reports that migrant shelters along parts of Mexico’s northern border are full, a sign that crossings could start to increase again this month.

Eileen Sullivan is a Washington correspondent covering the Department of Homeland Security. Previously, she worked at the Associated Press where she won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. @esullivannyt

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