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Border Patrol has no protocols for assessing health of children with preexisting conditions, report says

Border Patrol does not have protocols for assessing medical needs of children with preexisting conditions, according to an independent report made public Tuesday on the death of an 8-year-old girl from Panama who was in federal custody.

The girl’s death was “a preventable tragedy that resulted from” failures in “medical and custodial systems for children” within U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency that includes the Border Patrol, the report found.

It’s the latest damning finding in the May 17 death of Anadith Danay Reyes Alvarez, who was on her ninth day in custody with family in Harlingen, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, one of the busiest corridors for migrant crossings. She had a chronic heart condition and sickle cell anemia.

An internal investigation found Border Patrol medical staff declined to review the girl’s file.

CBP did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Migrants wait in line adjacent to the border fence

Migrants wait in line near the border fence under the watch of the Texas National Guard while waiting to enter into El Paso, Texas, on May 10, 2023.  (AP Photo/Andres Leighton, File)

Mabel Alvarez Benedicks, the girl’s mother, told The Associated Press she reported her daughter’s condition to officials when she and her family were being processed at the border, but officials failed to notify other staff at the time the family was taken to a second facility designated for families, a problem the monitor highlighted in a previous report to the court.

Six days later, the girl tested positive for influenza and had a temperature of 101.8 F, according to the report. She was given medication, put into isolation with her family but three days later, the girl and her mother made numerous visits to the medical unit, the report said.

After Alvarez carried her daughter to the medical unit as she seized and became unresponsive, the girl was then taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead, the report said.

The “poor clinical decision-making by the health providers” is responsible in Anadith’s death, the report said.

“These inexcusable systemic failures were exacerbated by just a sheer disregard for her life,” said Melissa Adamson, an attorney at the National Center for Youth Law.

In May, a 17-year-old boy from Honduras died in U.S. custody. Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza died at a holding center in Safety Harbor, Florida. His mother said her son had epilepsy but showed no signs of being seriously ill before he left for the United States.

In March, a 4-year-old “medically fragile unaccompanied child from Honduras” died at a hospital in Michigan, according to a Health and Human Services statement at the time.

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