Third Unaccompanied Minor Dies While in Government’s Custody

Canary. Photo by 4028mdk09.

According to reports Health and Human Services said an unaccompanied teenage boy from Guatemala – who was taken into custody by Border Patrol agents after crossing into the U.S. near El Paso, Texas on April 19th – died on Tuesday.

According to Evelyn Stauffer, a spokeswoman for Health and Human Services, told NBC News in a statement that the boy died after “several days of intensive care.”

BuzzFeed was the first to report about the incident of the boy’s death on Wednesday. This is the third minor to die while in the government’s custody since December.

The teenager, whose identity has not been released, was in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office Refugee Resettlement (ORR) division, which is the part of the Department of Health and Human Services for housing immigrant children, was transferred into the custody of an ORR shelter called Southwest Key Casa Padre, in Brownsville, Texas on April 20th.

In recent months, the Trump administration has lamented the increase of migrant families and unaccompanied children crossing the border. In early April, the government division responsible for unaccompanied migrant children, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), said it was on track to detaining the most youth in history. As of late March, around 32,000 unaccompanied children had been referred to the ORR for custody.

The government contracts with private and nonprofit shelters to hold unaccompanied migrant children until a family member can pick them up.

According to Stauffer, BuzzFeed reported, the CBP clinicians at the shelter “did not notice any health concerns and the boy himself did not mention any when brought to the shelter.”

However, by the next morning “the boy became “noticeably ill,” including having fever, chills and a headache,” Stauffer said.

Stauffer said that staff working at the Southwest Key Casa Padre took the teenager to a local emergency room that morning on the 21st where he was released after being treated and was then taken back to the shelter.

But the boy’s health did not improve throughout the day and the next morning he was taken to a different emergency room via ambulance. That second hospital later transferred the boy to a children’s hospital that afternoon.

The official cause of death has not yet been determined, but according to a statement from the Guatemalan consulate, “the 16-year-old was admitted with a severe infection in his frontal lobe at a children’s hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas. After a surgery to stabilize the pressure in his head, the minor was put in intensive care before he died April 30.”

The teenager crossed the border near El Paso, Texas on April 19 and was taken into custody by Border Patrol agents who transferred him to an ORR shelter in Brownsville, Texas. He was from Camotán a municipality in the eastern area of the Guatemalan state of Chiquimula.

The boy’s brother and officials from the Guatemalan consulate visited him while he was in the hospital. Family members in Guatemala were also kept updated. Guatemalan consulate officials in McAllen, Texas, said they tried to get humanitarian visas for the parents to visit their son, but they couldn’t travel because of their age.

Southwest Key, the largest network of shelters for migrant kids, secured $626 million in federal grants in 2018. So far in 2019, that number is at $86 million. The Casa Padre shelter, run out of a former Walmart, has had at least four sexual abuse allegations going back to 2017, according to documents from HHS.

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