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Immigration

DHS Begs Parents Not to Cross Illegally after Child’s Death in U.S. Custody

Migrants from Honduras stand next to the border fence as they prepare to cross it illegally, in Tijuana, Mexico, December 12, 2018. (Mohammed Salem/REUTERS )

The Department of Homeland Security is warning parents against bringing their children across the border illegally after a seven-year-old girl from Guatemala died in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody.

“As we have always said, traveling north illegally is extremely dangerous. Drug cartels, human smugglers and the elements pose deadly risks to anyone who comes across the border illegally,” a DHS spokesperson said Friday. “Unfortunately, despite our best efforts and the best efforts of the medical team treating the child, we were unable to stop this tragedy from occurring. Once again, we are begging parents to not put themselves or their children at risk attempting to enter illegally. Please present yourselves at a port of entry and seek to enter legally and safely.”

The girl and her father were apprehended on December 6 by Border Patrol in a group of 163 migrants who turned themselves in after crossing illegally into New Mexico. Though an “initial screening revealed no evidence” of sickness and her “father claimed the child was in good health,” according to a CBP official, she began having seizures about eight hours later and was taken by helicopter to an El Paso hospital. She responded well to treatment at first but then went into cardiac arrest and died less than 24 hours later of dehydration, fever, and shock. She “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days,” according to a statement from CBP.

“Our sincerest condolences go out to the family of the child,” CBP spokesman Andrew Meehan said. “As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child.”

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