The recent death of an eight-year-old Panamanian girl, detained along with her family by the US Border Patrol in Harlingen, Texas, marks the second child fatality in US government custody in a span of two weeks. This young life lost has become a symbol of the escalating migration crisis in Latin America, particularly in the vibrant yet busy Rio Grande Valley corridor.
The US Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol’s overseeing agency, has been grappling with extreme overcrowding, a situation exacerbated by a surge of migrants ahead of the conclusion of a critical COVID-19 related immigration regulation last week.
The girl, identified as Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez by Honduran Consul José Leonardo Navas, experienced a medical crisis that led to her demise in the hospital, despite immediate emergency medical intervention. An autopsy is anticipated to further clarify the circumstances of her untimely death.
Anadith was born with cardiac complications and underwent surgery in Panama three years ago, according to information provided by her father to the Consul. Her parents are originally from Honduras, and she was traveling with them and her two elder siblings.
As per protocol, Customs and Border Protection’s internal affairs division will conduct a thorough investigation into the incident. Notifications have also been extended to the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General and the Harlingen Police Department.
This tragedy shadows another recent fatality, that of a 17-year-old Honduran boy, Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza. The teen also lost his life while he was in the custody of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. Earlier this year, a vulnerable four-year-old Honduran child also passed away following a cardiac arrest while in a Michigan hospital, under the agency’s Office of Refugee Resettlement.
The termination of the Title 42 regulation, which helped manage migration during the pandemic, has contributed to a spike in migrant numbers at the US border. Overcrowding has led to grim conditions, with hundreds of migrants huddled in the open air between two border walls in San Diego, surviving on minimal provisions and inadequate sanitary facilities.
The issues extend beyond the US border. Advocacy groups warn of the hazardous conditions endured by migrants still in Mexico, hoping for entry into the United States. They report subpar medical care and poor living conditions in various Mexican encampments.