CBP officials stated that the father of the seven-year-old girl who died in Border Patrol custody on December 7 claimed she was in good health until seven hours after they were apprehended. The father made mention of the girl being sick as they began a two-hour bus ride from the forward operating base to the Lordsburg Border Patrol Station.
Officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection told reporters on a national conference call that the young girl was part of a large group of 163 migrants who illegally crossed the border at the Antelope Wells Port of Entry at about 10 p.m. on December 6. The port of entry was closed at the time of the crossing and the migrants entered the U.S. illegally, officials stated. In addition to large numbers of Family Unit Aliens (FMUA), the group contained at least 50 Unaccompanied Alien Children, according to the source who spoke on background.
Due to the remote location, only four Border Patrol agents were available at the time for processing this group of migrants, the official stated. During the initial screening, the agents asked the migrants a series of 20 questions concerning their health and other demographic information. Officials said the agents asked the father the questions in Spanish and translated his answers to English for documentation on the form. The father reportedly checked the box on the I-779 immigration form that said his daughter had no current illnesses.
Officials stressed the remote and primitive nature of the facilities in this area. The agents initially took the 163 migrants to a small forward operating base (FOB) located near the port of entry. Agents began the process of transporting the group to the Lordsburg Border Patrol station by bus. Only one bus is available in this area and CBP protocols call for unaccompanied minors to be transported first. Travel time by bus on these highly primitive roads in mountainous desert terrain takes about two to three hours. Officials stressed that bus transportation is the fastest means available in this area — keeping in mind that the father had not yet reported the girl to be ill.
At about 4:30 a.m., the bus returned to the FOB after transporting the unaccompanied minors and began loading family unit migrants, including the little girl and her father, officials stated. At about 5 a.m., the father reported the little girl was ill and vomiting. Border Patrol agents on the bus reportedly called ahead to the station to advise the girl’s condition and request EMT trained agents to meet them on arrival.
At about 6 a.m., the bus arrived at the Lordsburg Station and the girl had reportedly stopped breathing. Agents revived the girl and arranged transportation for her to a children’s hospital in El Paso by helicopter, the official continued. The helicopter arrived at 7:45 a.m and took the girl to El Paso. The agents provided ground transportation for the father. During the flight, the girl reportedly suffered cardiac arrest and was revived by the aircrew.
Doctors said the girl suffered brain swelling and liver failure. She died later that day.
“Border Patrol agents took every possible step to save the child’s life under the most trying of circumstances. As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child,” Department of Homeland Security officials said in a written statement.
The incident will be investigated by the CBP’s inspector general and the Office of Professional Responsibility.