Judge warned of problems with medical care at border police stations before the girl’s death

Judge warned of problems with medical care at border police stations before the girl’s death

McALLEN, Texas (AP) — A court-appointed observer said in January that migrant children held in medical isolation may be overlooked when Border Patrol stations become overcrowded, a warning issued five months before an 8- year-old girl with a heart condition died in custody during an unusually busy period in the same Texas region he inspected.

Dr. Paul H. Wise, a pediatrics professor at Stanford University, called the death of Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez of Panama “preventable” during an interview this week while he was in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley investigating the circumstances.

“Any child who is sick, but especially children with chronic problems, should not hesitate to refer them to local hospitals, preferably a children’s hospital or one with good pediatric capabilities,” Wise told The Associated Press.

US Customs and Border Protection has acknowledged that the girl was seen by medical personnel at least three times on the day she died – she complained of vomiting, abdominal pain and suffered what appeared to be a seizure – before being taken to a hospital. CBP did not respond to a request for comment on Wise’s report in January or his final comments.

Wise wrote a comprehensive report in January on Border Patrol custody conditions for children in the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso, Texas, which gave satisfactory assessments on many counts but also raised serious concerns. Last year, a federal judge asked him to investigate custody conditions in the two crowded regions as part of a 1997 court settlement to ensure safe treatment of migrant children.

Wise plans to file a report soon on the May 17 death of the girl, who died on her ninth day in custody after being transferred with her family to a station in Harlingen, Texas after being diagnosed with the flu. The agency limits custody to 72 hours under its own policy.

While his findings are not yet known – he declined to discuss them – some of his earlier warnings may resurface.

Wise previously expressed concern about crowding children into medical isolation. His January report tells how “one medical team” in El Paso was responsible for 125 sick patients, a number “far beyond the team’s capabilities.”

The Border Patrol also struggled to meet the requirement to conduct regular medical assessments of children when they come into families and are in crowded stations, Wise said in January.

“The 5-day repeat medical assessment is most important when families are held in overcrowded conditions for extended periods of time,” he wrote. “Due to other important demands on available medical personnel, this medical protocol appears to be given relatively low priority under these conditions.”

Wise further expressed concern that chronic conditions go undetected and that “relevant medical information” is unknown or not shared with staff.

CBP’s relatively detailed public account of the girl’s time in custody does not directly address the requirement to take exams every five days or how busy Harlingen station was when she was there.

Government responsibilities for the medical care of children are clearly defined in the recently updated agreement for the El Paso and Rio Grande Valley Sectors. “CBP will immediately activate the 911 system or refer youth to the local health system when needed for evaluation and treatment. Furthermore, CBP will refer young people with urgent or emerging medical problems to the local health system,” the agreement said.

During his visit, Wise interviewed Anadith’s mother, Mabel Alvarez Benedicks, who told the AP that officers repeatedly ignored pleas to hospitalize her medically fragile daughter because she felt pain in her bones, was struggling to breathe and couldn’t to walk.

Agents said her daughter’s diagnosis of flu did not require hospital care, Benedicks said. They knew the girl had a history of heart problems, but were told to come back if she passed out, the mother said.

CBP’s acting commissioner Troy Miller has since ordered a review of all medically vulnerable detainees to ensure limited time in custody. Wise said he had spoken to US officials, including medical personnel, to convey his concerns about his recent visit.

“I currently have enough information to make urgent recommendations to the CBP (Department of Homeland Security) and to the court. And this will focus on the steps that I believe need to be taken to ensure that preventable deaths do not occur in children in CBP custody,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *