Customs and Border Protection (CBP) faced renewed scrutiny this week as news surfaced that a 7-year-old migrant girl died while in the agency’s custody.
According to The Washington Post, the girl died from shock and dehydration shortly after entering CBP’s custody in New Mexico. Along with more than 100 others, she and her father turned themselves into CBP on Dec. 6.
About eight hours later, she started having seizures and eventually died around midnight the next morning after undergoing cardiac arrest. Officials reported that she had swelling in her brain and liver failure, according to the Associated Press.
In response, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called for an investigation and blasted CBP’s “culture of cruelty.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent a tweet demanding that the Homeland Security Department be held accountable.
A 7-year-old girl should not be dying of dehydration and shock in Customs and Border Protection custody.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) December 14, 2018
But as details emerged about the incident, it seemed like the girl was already in poor condition before encountering CBP.
Her father told officials that his daughter hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink for days. According to CBP, his daughter appeared to be in good health and her father even signed a form indicating as much.
And according to CBP commissioner Kevin McAleenan, agents “did everything in their power” to save the girl. When she started experiencing seizures, her bus alerted medical responders and she was later transported to Providence Children’s Hospital in El Paso.
Although emergency responders initially revived her after she stopped breathing, she was unable to recover and died in the hospital.
The incident occurred as thousands of migrants approached the border and the administration faced a potential government shutdown over border wall funding.
While Trump has made it clear that he’s willing to shut down the government over the issue, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) indicated he wouldn’t receive that funding from her chamber.
When asked about the incident, White House framed it as another reason to strengthen U.S. laws so that migrants had less of an incentive to try and enter the country.
“If we could just come together and pass some common-sense laws to disincentivize people from coming up from the border and encourage them to do it the right way, the legal way,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley argued, “then those types of deaths, those types of assaults, those types of rapes, the child smuggling, the human trafficking, that would all come to an end.”