An eight-year old girl died after being detained by border patrol agents in Texas, as the death toll among desperate people seeking refuge in the US continues to mount.
According to a statement by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the child died following a “medical emergency” while held with her family at a detention facility in Harlingen, a city in the Rio Grande valley.
“Emergency Medical Services were called to the station and transported her to the local hospital where she was pronounced dead,” the statement said.
No details were released about the child’s identity or cause of death or the welfare of her family. The US justice department’s Office of Professional Responsibility will investigate, as is protocol for such deaths in custody.
The eight-year-old’s death came less than a week after a teenager from Honduras died in Florida while detained at a facility for unaccompanied children.
Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza died on 10 May, five days after entering a facility contracted by the US health department in Safety Harbor, a city on the west shore of Tampa Bay.
The Honduran government has called for a full investigation including prosecutions if there is evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
A humanitarian crisis at the US-Mexico border continues amid failure by consecutive US governments to reform the dysfunctional, outdated and underfunded immigration and asylum system.
US administrations have implemented stop-gap measures, failing to tackle systemic problems or improve the plight of those seeking asylum or a safe route to migration.
On 12 May, the Biden administration lifted Title 42, a Trump-era policy which used the pandemic to stop most migration at the border on public health grounds.
Despite fear-mongering about a “surge” in people crossing the border after the lifting of Title 42, numbers seeking to enter the US have returned to normal after an initial spike.
The Biden administration also ended the policy of holding families in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers and is hiring more immigration judges, though such is the backlog that more than 2 million people are waiting for cases to be heard.
Biden has expanded other Trump-era policies that he condemned and promised to end during his 2020 election campaign, including banning people from specific countries – Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador – from seeking asylum at the US border.
Death at the border is at record levels. Last year, at least 853 people died while trying to cross – more than two a day. The true death toll is likely to be higher as victims in desert areas are often discovered years later or not all.
Deaths at the border have been rising since the “prevention through deterrence” strategy was launched almost 30 years ago by the Clinton administration, a strategy advocates have condemned as cruel and inhumane.
Since then, administrations from both parties have increased militarisation at the border, forcing people towards more isolated and dangerous crossings in the desert and the Rio Grande.
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