Mom of Girl, 8, Who Died in Border Patrol Custody: We Begged for Help as She Suffered

She said her medically fragile daughter struggled to breathe, couldn't walk
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 18, 2023 2:00 AM CDT
Updated May 20, 2023 6:30 AM CDT
Girl, 8, Dies in Border Patrol Custody in Texas
Two migrants, part of a small group, are seeing through the mesh of the border fence as they camp outside a gate in El Paso, Texas, Friday, May 12, 2023.   (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)
UPDATE May 20, 2023 6:30 AM CDT

The mother of an 8-year-old girl who died in Border Patrol custody said Friday 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. Agents said her daughter's diagnosis of influenza did not require hospital care, Mabel Alvarez Benedicks said in an emotional phone interview. They knew the girl had a history of heart problems and sickle cell anemia, the AP reports. “They killed my daughter, because she was nearly a day and a half without being able to breathe," the mother said. "She cried and begged for her life and they ignored her. They didn’t do anything for her." The girl died Wednesday on what her mother said was the family’s ninth day in Border Patrol custody.

May 18, 2023 2:00 AM CDT

An 8-year-old girl died Wednesday in Border Patrol custody, authorities said, a rare occurrence that comes as the agency struggles with overcrowding. The child and her family were being held at a station in Harlingen, Texas, in Rio Grande Valley, one of the busiest corridors for illegal crossings, US Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol's parent agency, said in a statement. The girl experienced “a medical emergency” and was taken to a nearby hospital, where she died, according to the statement, which did not disclose her nationality or provide additional information about the incident, the AP reports.

Customs and Border Protection's internal affairs office will investigate, and the Homeland Security Department's inspector general and Harlingen police have been notified, Miller said. Sgt. Larry Moore, a spokesman for the Harlingen Police Department, said he had no information about the death. The Border Patrol had 28,717 people in custody on May 10, the day before pandemic-related asylum restrictions expired, which was double from two weeks earlier, according to a court filing. By Sunday, the number had dropped 23% to 22,259, still unusually high. The average time in custody on Sunday was 77 hours, five hours more than the maximum allowed under agency policy. Last week, a 17-year-old Honduran boy traveling alone died in US Health and Human Services Department custody.

(More US-Mexico border stories.)

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