Breaking News: 7-year-old migrant girl taken into Border Patrol custody dies of dehydration, exhaustion

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The Washington Post is reporting a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala died of dehydration and shock after she was taken into Border Patrol custody last week for crossing into the United States illegally with her father and a large group of migrants along a remote span of New Mexico desert, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Thursday.

The child’s death, which has not been previously reported, is likely to intensify scrutiny of detention conditions at Border Patrol stations and CBP facilities that are increasingly overwhelmed by large numbers of families with children seeking asylum in the United States.

According to CBP records, the girl and her father were taken into custody at around 10 p.m. on Dec. 6 south of Lordsburg, N.M., as part of a group of 163 people who approached U.S. agents to turn themselves in.

More than eight hours later, the child began having seizures at 6:25 a.m., CBP records show. Emergency responders who arrived soon after measured her body temperature at 105.7 degrees, and according to a statement from CBP, she “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days.”

After a helicopter flight to an El Paso hospital, the child went into cardiac arrest and “was revived,” according to the agency. “However, the child did not recover and died at the hospital less than 24 hours after being transported,” CBP said.

The agency did not release the name of the girl or her father, but he remains in El Paso awaiting a meeting with Guatemalan consular officials, according to CBP. The agency is investigating the incident to ensure appropriate policies were followed, the agency said.

Food and water are typically provided to migrants in Border Patrol custody, and it wasn’t immediately clear Thursday if the girl received provisions and a medical exam during the middle of the night, prior to the onset of seizures.

“Our sincerest condolences go out to the family of the child,” CBP spokesman Andrew Meehan said in a statement to The Washington Post.

“Border Patrol agents took every possible step to save the child’s life under the most trying of circumstances,” Meehan said. “As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child.”

Though much of the political and media attention has focused in recent weeks on migrant caravans arriving at the Tijuana-San Diego border, large numbers of Central Americans continue to cross the border into Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. The groups sometimes spend days in smugglers’ stash houses or walking through remote areas with little food or water prior to reaching the border.

Arrests of migrants traveling as family groups have skyrocketed this year, and Homeland Security officials say court rulings that limit their ability to keep families in detention have produced a “catch and release” system that encourages migrants to bring children as a shield against detention and deportation.

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