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Kids Dying in Border Detention: Unnamed Girl Is Sixth Child Death in U.S. Custody Since September

10:01 AM PDT on May 23, 2019

Credit: CBS NEWS

[dropcap size=big]U[/dropcap]nited States authorities have admitted that a 10-year-old girl died in U.S. border patrol custody after being detained by officers in September of last year. That brings the total of dead children to six while being held in a U.S. border detention center, where families have been separated and detained after seeking refugee status in the United States.

The death had not been previously reported, and no name or photograph of the girl has been released. 

Little else is known about the child other than that she had fled El Salvador, and that was brought to a Office of Refugee Resettlement center in March of last year in a “medically fragile state,” according to statements made by a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The latest revelation of a child’s death in the hands of U.S. border custody came only days after Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, a 16 year old boy from Guatemala, died at a U.S. Border Patrol station in Texas. Hernandez Vasquez reportedly told officials that he felt ill on the day of his death. A nurse diagnosed him with Influenza A, and officials drove him to a facility 22 miles away to a segregated cell, where he died later in the day.

“Yet another child has died in US government custody,” Amnesty International said in response. “This death, which comes days after the administration released a proposal to make it even more difficult for people to seek safety in this country, leads us to wonder how many deaths it will take for the administration to ensure the safety and security of children.”

A week before that, a 2 year old died after being detained with his parents at the border.  

RELATED: Waiting For Asylum in South Central: One Family's Journey of Danger and Hope

These cases revolve around President Trump’s so called “zero tolerance policy” around immigration which saw border officials charging migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border with criminal violations, and separating migrant parents from their children, and imprisoning children and their parents at separate facilities.

A House hearing on migrant children got heated on Tuesday when Rep. Lauren Underwood of Illinois attempted Tuesday to quegrilled the acting chief  of the Department of Homeland Security – and former head of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency – Kevin McAleenan. Republicans on the committee voted to strike Underwood’s questions from the official hearing’s records.

The administration was ordered by a federal judge in San Diego to stop separating families in June of 2018, but Secretary McAleenan admitted to the House committee that officers still separated families in “rare circumstances.” The Florence Refugee Rights Project has documented 21 cases of family separation from January to April of 2019. 

'It was mental torture, nothing else.'

[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]n the past two years, 22 people have died in U.S. detention centers. Some were migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, others were asylum seekers and refugees. A reported 188 people in total have died in I.C.E. custody since 2003.

In a horrific report, The Intercept and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reviewed more than 8,400 reports of detainees and found that I.C.E. used solitary confinement cells to “punish immigrants for offenses as minor as consensual kissing, and to segregate hunger strikers, LGBTQ detainees, and people with disabilities.”

The report indicates that a third of those cases involved detainees described as having mental illness. “It was mental torture, nothing else,” said Karandeep Singh, a detainee in who was put into solitary confinement after refusing to eat.

RELATED: Hope for Migrants Hinges on a Waiting List at Tijuana's Gateway

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