The mother of an 8-year-old who died in Border Patrol custody says her cries for medical help went ignored: 'They didn't do anything for her'

A migrant woman, holding a baby, walks along the train tracks
A migrant woman, holding a baby, walks along the train tracks hoping to board a freight train heading north, in Huehuetoca, Mexico.(AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
  • An 8-year-old died in Border Patrol custody last week, the second migrant child to die this month.

  • The child's mother said Border Patrol agents ignored her repeated requests for medical care.

  • An influx of migrants has arrived at the US southern border in recent months.

An 8-year-old girl, who last week became the second Latin American child to die in Border Patrol custody this month, "begged for her life" as she struggled to breathe but was "ignored," her mother said.

"They killed my daughter, because she was nearly a day and a half without being able to breathe," Mabel Álvarez Benedicks told the Guardian. "She cried and begged for her life and they ignored her. They didn't do anything for her."

Anadith Tanay Reyes Álvarez was being held with her family in an immigration center in Harlingen, Texas when she died on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. Alvarez was born with congenital heart disease and sickle cell anemia and had been receiving treatment in Panama, Telemundo reported.

"Wherever I went with the authorities I always told them what had happened and they never listened to me. Just because I'm an immigrant," Álvarez Benedicks told Telemundo.

José Leonardo Navas, a Honduran diplomat based in Texas, told the Associated Press that the girl was from Panama while her parents were from Honduras. Lorna Santos, Álvarez' aunt who lives in New York, told Telemundo that the family was heading to the United States for treatment.

There's been an influx of migrants ahead of last week's expiration of Title 41, a restrictive immigration policy enacted in 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Associated Press reported that as of May 10, just a day before the measure lapsed, there were more than 28,000 people in Border Patrol custody. That's double the number of people in custody from the previous two weeks. The influx has led to further overcrowding in immigration centers and long processing times.

Overwhelmed, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has bused asylum seekers from Texas to northern cities like New York and Chicago.

When 8-year-old Álvarez first arrived in the United States on May 7, she tested positive for the flu. Álvarez Benedicks told the Guardian that authorities said her daughter's case of the flu did not require hospitalization despite her health issues.

Her daughter died after spending nine days in custody.

Álvarez Benedicks said border agents brushed off complaints that her daughter was in pain. Officials also rejected her multiple requests to call an ambulance to take her daughter to the hospital. Álvarez Benedicks told the Guardian that her daughter was only taken to the hospital when her blood pressure dropped on Wednesday. She was pronounced dead when she arrived.

"I felt like they didn't believe me," she said.

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