As if the inhumane treatment of people and their families has not been enough, reports of deaths of innocent children at the border continue. This morning, a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy was found dead at a Border Patrol station in southern Texas. His death was preceded by a week of waiting in holding facilities to be sent to a shelter for migrant children.
A statement by the Customs and Border Protection agency says the cause of his death was not immediately known.
This marks the third migrant child — all of them from Guatemala — to die in Custom and Border Protection’s custody since December. Another 16-year-old Guatemalan boy died last month after being placed in a shelter for young migrants by the Department of Health and Human Services. And earlier this month, a 10 month old baby was found dead in the Rio Grande after a raft carrying migrants overturned near the Texas border.
“The men and women of U.S. Customs and Border Protection are saddened by the tragic loss of this young man and our condolences are with his family,” John Sanders, the agency’s acting commissioner, said in the statement on Monday. He said the agency “is committed to the health, safety and humane treatment of those in our custody.”
The young boy who died today had entered the United States near the border town of Hidalgo, Texas on May 13th. He was held in a processing center in the agency’s Rio Grande Valley sector until Sunday, when he was moved to a Border Patrol station in the city of Weslaco, about 20 miles away. He was waiting to be sent to the unknown location of a shelter used for housing migrant children and teenagers.
“There must be an independent investigation into this child’s death,” Ashley Houghton, tactical campaigns manager at Amnesty International USA, said in a statement. “It is dangerous and cruel to detain people, particularly children, in crowded and unsanitary conditions for seeking protection. The administration must respect human rights by ending detention of children.”
The boy’s death highlights the dangerous trek that migrants endure to reach the United States border from Central America. The deaths also put a focal point on the medical risks that children face in Border Patrol facilities, which have been pushed beyond capacity in recent months as the number of migrants has surged.
Customs and Border Protection officials in April detained 109,144 migrants at the southwest border, including at its legal ports of entry — the highest total since 2007.
The Department of Homeland Security started busing migrants to other facilities along the border and just last week began flying immigrants from Texas to California to be processed, in an effort to ease overflow issues. They have also built tent cities to house migrant families and children in Texas.
Customs and Border Protection officials are responsible for detaining and processing migrants after they cross the border, and then turning over children and teenagers to the Health and Human Services’ custody to be placed in shelters. Limited space in Health and Human Services facilities, causes migrants to remain detained in Border Patrol centers for longer than usual.
The government is prohibited from detaining children for more than 20 days based on court rulings. This has forced the Border Patrol to release migrant families into the United States as they wait for their immigration hearings.
Source: The New York Times