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7-Year-Old Girl Dies In U.S. Border Patrol Custody


There are more grim stories coming out of the U.S.-Mexico border. This week, we learned that there are now 15,000 migrant children in U.S. custody after crossing the border. And now this. A 7-year-old girl from Guatemala who was in U.S. custody after crossing over into New Mexico has now died. Nick Miroff is a national security reporter who co-wrote this story for The Washington Post. Thanks for being with us, Nick.

NICK MIROFF: Sure. You bet, Rachel.

MARTIN: Can you explain, exactly, the chain of events? What happened right after this girl and her father were detained?

MIROFF: So what we know is that the girl and her father crossed over as part of a group of 163 people in the deserts of New Mexico, south of Lordsburg, and they were apprehended by the Border Patrol. They turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents and were taken to the Border Patrol station in Lordsburg. More than eight hours later, the girl began having seizures. And emergency responders determined that she had a temperature of 105.7 and had not eaten or had any water in several days. She was evacuated by helicopter to El Paso, the El Paso Hospital, where she died 24 hours later.

MARTIN: So is it clear, Nick, what kind of symptoms she was exhibiting when she was detained by U.S. officials? I mean, couldn't they tell that she was dehydrated and starving?

MIROFF: That is not clear yet. What we don't know is whether she was given a medical exam, which is standard procedure, or whether she was offered food or water. This was the middle of the night, and this is a small Border Patrol station. It's not hard to imagine that the agents at this particular station might have been overwhelmed by this large group of people. But again, we don't know if she would have gotten - if she got the standard medical exam.

MARTIN: Do we know where her father is now?

MIROFF: Her father is in El Paso. He has not been identified, nor has the girl. We understand that he's with a charity group there in El Paso who's helping him. And Customs and Border Protection say they've arranged for the father to meet with Guatemalan consular officials.

MARTIN: Do we know the conditions of the detention facility where the girl had been kept?

MIROFF: Well, this was a Border Patrol station, not a detention facility. So whatever kind of holding cells they have there are typically very rudimentary, would've been probably a large cell of some sort. But I have not been to that station. I just know that it's one of the relatively smaller stations.

MARTIN: We should say the Department of Homeland Security has released a statement on this. This is an excerpt I'll read here.

(Reading) Border Patrol always takes care of individuals in their custody and does everything in their power to keep them safe. Every year, the Border Patrol saves hundreds of people who are overcome by the elements between our ports of entry. 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.

Do you know if there is going to be an investigation?

MIROFF: There is going to be an investigation. Yeah. Customs and Border Protection has said that they will ask the inspector general, and they will - and we know that Congress is also, some members of Congress are calling for an investigation.

MARTIN: Reporter Nick Miroff. He co-wrote this piece in The Washington Post today. Thanks so much for sharing your reporting. We appreciate it.

MIROFF: Sure. Thanks, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.