September 22, 2023

Despite flags, Border Patrol staff did not review the vulnerable 8-year-old girl’s file before she died

HARLINGEN, Texas (AP) — Border Patrol medical staff declined to review the file of an 8-year-old girl with a chronic heart condition and a rare blood disorder before she appeared to have a seizure and died on her ninth day in custody. found internal investigation.

US Customs and Border Protection said the Panamanian child’s parents shared the medical history with authorities on May 10, a day after the family was taken into custody.

But a nurse specialist refused to see documents about the girl on the day she died, the CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility said Thursday in its initial statement on the May 17 death. The nurse specialist reported having rejected three or four requests from the girl’s mother for an ambulance.

A day before she died, Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez showed a fever of 104.9 degrees Fahrenheit (40.5 degrees Celsius), the report said.

A surveillance video system at the Harlingen, Texas, station had been out of order since April 13, a violation of federal law that prevented the collection of evidence, according to the Office of Professional Responsibility, similar to the police’s Internal Affairs Bureau. The system was marked for repair, but was not repaired until May 23, six days after the girl died.

Still, the report drew on interviews with Border Patrol officers and hired medical staff to raise a host of new and disturbing questions about what went wrong during the girl’s nine days in custody, pushing her own limit of 72 hours exceeded.

Researchers failed to explain decisions medical staff made and seemed to lose words.

“Despite the girl’s condition, her mother’s concerns and the series of treatments required to manage her condition, contracted medical staff did not transfer her to a hospital for higher-level care,” the Office of Professional Responsibility said. .

CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller said the initial investigation “provides important new information about this tragic death” and reaffirmed recent measures, including an assessment of all “medically vulnerable” cases in custody to ensure they are as appropriate as possible. be released from custody as soon as possible. The average time in custody has fallen by more than half in two weeks for families, he said.

“(This death) was a deeply disturbing and unacceptable tragedy. We can – and will – do better to make sure this never happens again,” Miller said.

Anadith entered Brownsville, Texas, with her Honduran parents and two older siblings on May 9, as daily illegal crossings passed 10,000 as migrants rushed to evade the end of pandemic-related restrictions on asylum applications.

She was diagnosed with the flu on May 14 at a temporary shelter in Donna, Texas, and was moved to Harlingen with her family. Staff met with Anadith and her mother about nine times over the next four days at Harlingen station until her death due to concerns such as a high fever, flu symptoms, nausea and difficulty breathing. She was given medication, a cold pack and a cold shower, according to the Office of Professional Responsibility.

A court-appointed observer expressed concern in January about the chronic conditions of medically vulnerable children that are not reaching Border Guard staff.

Dr. Paul H. Wise, a professor of pediatrics at Stanford University who was in South Texas last week to investigate the circumstances surrounding what he said was a “preventable” death, said there should be little hesitation in taking sick children to the hospital, especially those with chronic conditions.

Mabel Alvarez Benedicks, Anadith’s mother, told The Associated Press that she informed staff of her child’s condition, including sickle cell anemia, and repeatedly requested medical attention and an ambulance to take her daughter to a hospital, but the request was denied until her child fell unconscious.

Karla Marisol Vargas, a Texas Civil Rights Project attorney representing the family, said Border Patrol agents denied her requests for medications until the day of her death.

“They refused to see documents proving her daughter’s illnesses,” Vargas said.

The family lives with relatives in New York City while funeral arrangements are made.


Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this story.

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