The deaths of an 8-year-old Panamanian girl and a 17-year-old boy from Honduras who were under U.S. government supervision have again raised questions about how prepared authorities are to handle medical emergencies suffered by migrants arriving in the U.S., especially as agencies struggle with massive overcrowding at facilities along the southern border, The Associated Press reports. Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez became unresponsive on what was at least a third visit to medics Wednesday at a Border Patrol station in Harlingen, Texas, and died later in a hospital, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said. The girl had complained that day of vomiting and stomach pains. She died on her family’s ninth day in custody; the most time allowed is 72 hours under agency policy.
The family told agents that the girl had a history of heart problems and sickle cell anemia, CBP acknowledged in its second statement on the death. She was diagnosed with influenza on the family’s sixth day in custody, which prompted them to be moved to another station. CBP published a detailed account on Sunday, confirming key aspects of what the girl’s mother said two days earlier in an AP interview. Mabel Alvarez Benedicks told the AP that agents repeatedly ignored pleas to hospitalize her medically fragile daughter as she felt pain in her bones, struggled to breathe and was unable to walk. She said the daughter was finally taken in an ambulance after falling limp and unconscious and bleeding from the mouth. Agents said her daughter’s diagnosis of influenza did not require hospital care, according to the mother.