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Women’s Refugee Commission Mourns Death of 8-Year-Old Girl in Border Patrol Detention

Washington, D.C. – On May 17, 2023, eight-year-old Anadith Tanay Reyes Álvarez died after experiencing a medical emergency in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol detention facility in Harlingen, Texas. According to CBP, Anadith suffered from heart disease and sickle cell anemia and was diagnosed with influenza while in custody. Despite CBP standards that limit custody to a maximum of 72 hours, Anadith and her family were detained for eight days. According to Anadith’s mother, Border Patrol agents repeatedly rejected her pleas for medical aid.

In response, Katharina Obser, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), stated:

“We are heartbroken by the news of this tragedy. Every child’s life is valuable and important. We are outraged by reports that Border Patrol agents and medical personnel neglected to provide the urgent medical attention Anadith needed. According to Anadith’s mother, she was struggling to breathe and unable to walk for nearly a day and a half. On the day Anadith died, her mother said she requested medical care three times, and an ambulance was not called until after Anadith was unconscious.

“CBP and the Department of Homeland Security should immediately and thoroughly investigate this tragic death in custody, including the reports that Border Patrol agents repeatedly ignored Anadith’s parents’ request for medical care. We urge CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility to ensure that its investigation is thorough, timely, and transparent, with clear recommendations to ensure medical attention is prompt and compassionate and to prevent another child’s death in custody. CBP must comply with its own standards to transfer or release people quickly, especially children, and must ensure that children receive the screenings and protections accorded under the Flores Settlement Agreement.

“How the government responds to those seeking protection at the U.S.-Mexico border is a choice, a choice that for too long has resulted in not nearly enough action to ensure appropriate conditions and treatment of those in its custody. We mourn this horrific loss and support Anadith’s family’s call for justice.”