An eight-year-old girl suffering from underlying medical conditions passed away in US Border Patrol custody after her requests to be taken to the hospital were repeatedly denied. Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez, born in Panama to Honduran parents, was seen by medical staff nine times in three days for fever, flu-like symptoms, and pain. On the day of her death, Alvarez’s mother made “three or four requests” for an ambulance, which were denied by a nurse.
Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) provided details of the tragic incident in a report about Alvarez’s death. The young girl was treated for her symptoms on May 16 with flu and fever medications, ice packs, and a cold shower. However, none of the staff seemed to be aware that Alvarez suffered from sickle cell anaemia, requiring life-long treatment, or that she had a history of congenital heart disease. The family claimed they reported her medical history when they were first taken into custody at a different facility a week earlier.
The girl’s mother, Mabel Alvarez Benedicks, told the Associated Press news agency days after her daughter’s death: “They killed my daughter, because she was nearly a day and a half without being able to breathe. She cried and begged for her life and they ignored her. They didn’t do anything for her.”
The CBP’s review suggests that the medical staff never consulted with doctors, including an on-call paediatrician, about Alvarez’s illness. The autopsy found a build-up of fluid in her chest cavity and noted the attempted surgical repair of the girl’s aortic stenosis, a heart condition, and also referenced the provided history of sickle cell anaemia. An official cause of death has yet to be declared.
In a separate statement, the acting head of CBP Troy Miller said her death was “a deeply upsetting and unacceptable tragedy”. He added that several medical providers involved in this incident have been prohibited from working in CBP facilities. The agency’s top medical officer is conducting a review of procedures across all its facilities, and steps have been taken to review the cases of “all medically fragile individuals”.
Alvarez’s death was the second death in custody of a child in two weeks, following the death of a 17-year-old Honduran boy, Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza, in a shelter in Florida run by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement.
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