7-Year-Old Guatemalan Girl Dies Crossing Border

7-Year-Old Guatemalan Girl Dies Crossing Border

Posted on in Refugees.

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On Thursday, the Washington Post first reported the death of a 7-year old girl that had been in the custody of Customs & Border Protection (CBP). The situation immediately sparked calls from mostly Democratic congressional leaders for an investigation into CBP and its policies. This was followed by many calls for more accountability for CBP. The incident has led to many questions surrounding the way the current administration handles border apprehensions, which have reached an all-time high over the past year.

 On the night of December 6th, CBP was approached by a group of 163 migrants fleeing Guatemala. The group voluntarily surrendered to the CBP agents because most were seeking asylum. It is unclear when the group left Guatemala or how long they had been traveling. The area where the group was apprehended is mostly desert where the conditions are not pleasant. This route over the border is known to be incredibly dangerous because of the heat and lack of food and water. Last year alone, 294 people have died trying to cross the border illegally. Eight of those deaths happened in the desert where this group of migrants tried to cross.

 After being taken into custody each migrant was given a preliminary medical exam. According to NPR, “at the initial [medical] screening, the girl showed no symptoms, and her father signed an English language form saying she had no current health issues.” After this medical screening, the group of migrants boarded a bus and were sent to a larger CBP facility that could hold a much larger number of people. It was on this bus ride that the girl started vomiting. An hour and a half later the bus arrived at a CBP facility in Lordsburg, NM. Upon arrival, officials were told that the girl was no longer breathing and had been experiencing seizures. She needed to be resuscitated and Border Patrol agents were able to do so. She was then airlifted to a nearby hospital in El Paso, TX.  At the time the little girl’s fever was at 105.7 degrees. While in the hospital the girl went into cardiac arrest and died early Saturday morning.

 The girl had no access to water or food while they were walking through the desert trying to cross the border. It was unclear whether the girl received water or food once in the custody of CBP, but Politico reported that there was “no evidence that the girl’s death was exacerbated by the conditions she was held in.” In a statement, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesperson said, “On behalf of the Department of Homeland Security, our sincerest condolences go out to the family of the child. Border Patrol agents took every possible step to save the child’s life under the most trying of circumstances. As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child.” The CBP is doing an investigation to see if the correct procedures and policies were used. The Inspector General of DHS will also be opening an investigation to see if everything was done correctly.

 This will most likely bring many calls for a new look at our nation’s immigration policies when it comes to the treatment of those apprehended at the border. Many 2020 presidential hopefuls have noted their disgust and heartbreak coming from this situation. Others have commented as well including Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas who told NPR, “I think it’s true that 163 people, for a small border patrol station, is a lot of people to deal with. But you would also think that you can identify someone who’s on the verge of death.” Former advisor to former President Barack Obama blamed the rhetoric of President Trump on the migrant caravan as the reason for the girl’s death.

 More will come out over the coming weeks letting us know what exactly happened, but until then we have to remember that the stigma of criminals and drug lords is not the identity that should be given to those trying to cross the border or seeking asylum. We have to remember where these people are coming from. This is a perfect example. It is hard to imagine a situation where a father would risk the life of his kids by crossing a scorching hot desert to seek a better life in another country unless the situation they were leaving is beyond repair and much worse. This is something we cannot forget. At the same time, CBP has apprehended a record number of people trying to cross the border this year. The facilities they are able to use are overrun and overpopulated. This is something DHS, CBP, and other government agencies should deal with. Other things such as policies should be looked at as well. Policies such as the “Zero Tolerance Policy” that has led to the separation of children from their parents at the border. As we have stated many times before, all laws should promote the flourishing of families and if it does not do that, it should not be a law. If families are flourishing then so is the nation.

The government should move swiftly to remedy this situation and figure out what went wrong. This girl’s family deserves to know the truth and those crossing the border should be treated with the dignity that we all inherently have. The policies, procedures, and laws of this country should always promote human dignity and flourishing. If not, then they should have no place here.