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Parents of 8-year-old girl who died in Border Patrol custody call for «justice»


May 19, 2023

The parents of an 8-year-old girl who died this week in Border Patrol custody in Texas said in an emotional interview that they want «justice» for their daughter and that authorities did not take her complaints about her health seriously until she was very late.

Anadith Tanay Reyes Álvarez, born in Panama to Honduran parents, arrived in the US with her parents and two siblings earlier this month.

She died Wednesday after suffering a «medical emergency» while she and her family were in custody in Harlingen, Customs and Border Protection said in a statement.

added Reyes.Courtesy Lorna Santos

The girl had congenital heart disease and sickle cell anemia, her family said.

«They could have done something for my daughter if they had called the ambulance earlier,» Mabel Álvarez, Anadith’s mother, told Telemundo News from a migrant shelter in McAllen, Texas, on Friday. «My daughter would still be alive.»

She described her daughter as a «friendly and loving» girl who always thought of others and hoped to one day help children with the same health conditions.

CBP said in a statement Wednesday that emergency medical services were called to the station and transported the girl to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The agency said the Office of Professional Responsibility would conduct an investigation, as is customary in the case of a death.

CBP said it contacted the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and the Harlingen Police Department about the incident.

Alvarez and Rossel Reyes, the girl’s father, said they provided authorities with documents about the girl’s medical condition while in immigration custody.

They said a doctor examined Anadith and she tested positive for the flu. Álvarez said he went to authorities and station medical personnel several times to explain that her daughter was complaining of pain and shortness of breath and that her symptoms were worsening.

«They never listened to me,» he said.

Reyes said her daughter was in «a lot of pain, a lot of pain.»

“I begged them to call an ambulance,” Álvarez said, adding that authorities told her the girl’s condition was not serious enough to call an ambulance.

Alvarez said her daughter also pleaded with authorities, telling them she «couldn’t breathe through her nose or her mouth.»

Alvarez said her daughter eventually lost consciousness and «died in my arms.»

She said authorities took the girl from her arms and put her on the floor, trying to revive her.

“My daughter died there at the station,” he said.

Álvarez said she feels authorities did not do enough to help her little girl.

“My daughter is a human being, they had to take care of her,” she said.

CBP told NBC News that an open investigation is underway into the girl’s death, referring to his original statement when asked about the parents’ allegations.

A 17-year-old unaccompanied migrant from Honduras died last week at a facility run by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement in Florida.

The Honduran government identified him as Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza and called for a full investigation and a criminal investigation if any wrongdoing is found.