Border Patrol in Texas is under scrutiny following the death of an 8-year-old girl in custody. The mother of the young girl, who was medically fragile due to a history of heart problems and sickle cell anemia, claims agents ignored her multiple pleas to hospitalize her daughter. Mabel Alvarez Benedicks alleges that her daughter, Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez, complained of bone pain, had difficulty breathing, and was unable to walk but was told that her diagnosis of influenza did not require hospital care. The girl died on the ninth day of the family’s detention, despite CBP policy stating that people are only to be held for a maximum of 72 hours.
Roderick Kise, a spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection, could not provide further details on the case as it was still under investigation. The death is the second in two weeks following a rush of illegal border crossings that placed immense pressure on holding facilities, and calls into question the proper handling of the situation by Border Patrol.
The child’s family, consisting of both parents and three children, aged 14, 12, and 8, crossed the border to Brownsville, Texas on May 9th, and after a medical diagnosis of influenza, were sent to the Harlingen station on May 14th. However, it remains unclear as to why the family was detained for so long.
Anadith’s mother claims that she repeatedly reported her daughter’s symptoms to agents but they did not believe her. She asked for a transfer to a hospital for breathing difficulties but was denied. An ambulance was reportedly called only after the young girl went limp, unconscious, and blood began to come out of her mouth. According to the mother, her daughter had no vital signs in the Border Patrol station before leaving for the hospital.
Anadith was born in Panama with congenital heart disease, but her family is from Honduras. She received surgery three years ago that was considered successful and had ambitions to become a doctor.
The rush to the border before pandemic-related asylum restrictions known as Title 42 expired was a result of increased pressure. Border Patrol detained an average of 10,100 people per day over four days last week compared to a daily average of 5,200 in March. The Border Patrol’s custody capacity is about 17,000, according to a government document last year, but on May 10th, the day before asylum restrictions expired, 28,717 people were in custody. By Sunday, the custody count had fallen 23% to 22,259, although this still remains historically high. The average time in custody was 77 hours on Sunday.