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Child who died in custody denied ambulance multiple times, U.S. border officials say

U.S. Border Patrol medical staff declined to review the file of an eight-year-old girl with a chronic heart condition and rare blood disorder before she appeared to have a seizure and died on her ninth day in custody, an internal investigation found.

Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez had 40.5 C fever, specific medical conditions not reviewed by nurse

A woman in braided hair and round-framed glasses holds up a sign that reads, 'Anadith Tanay Reyes.'

U.S. Border Patrol medical staff declined to review the file of an eight-year-old girl with a chronic heart condition and rare blood disorder before she appeared to have a seizure and died on her ninth day in custody, an internal investigation found.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has said the child's parents shared the medical history with authorities on May 10, a day after the family was taken into custody.

But a nurse practitioner declined to review documents about the girl on the day she died, CBP's Office of Professional Responsibility said in its initial statement Thursday on the May 17 death. The nurse practitioner reported denying three or four requests from the girl's mother for an ambulance.

Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez, whose parents are Honduran, was born in Panama with congenital heart disease. She underwent surgery three years ago that her mother, Mabel Alvarez Benedicks, characterized as successful during a May 19 interview with The Associated Press.

A day before she died, Anadith showed a fever of 40.5 C, the CBP report said.

Surveillance system not operable

A surveillance video system at the Harlingen, Texas, station was out of service since April 13, a violation of federal law that prevented evidence collection, according to the Office of Professional Responsibility. The system was flagged for repair but wasn't fixed until May 23, six days after the girl died.

The report consisting of interviews with Border Patrol agents and contracted medical personnel raises a host of new and troubling questions about what went wrong during the girl's nine days in custody, which exceeded the agency's own limit of 72 hours.

Dozens of people are shown in a long line, with many sitting on the group inside metal barriers that maintain lines.

Investigators gave no explanation for decisions that medical staff made.

"Despite the girl's condition, her mother's concerns, and the series of treatments required to manage her condition, contracted medical personnel did not transfer her to a hospital for higher-level care," the Office of Professional Responsibility said.

Troy Miller, CBP's acting commissioner, said the initial investigation "provides important new information on this tragic death" and he reaffirmed recent measures including a review of all "medically fragile" cases in custody to ensure they are out of custody as soon as possible.

"[This death] was a deeply upsetting and unacceptable tragedy. We can — and we will — do better to ensure this never happens again," Miller said.

'Preventable' death: pediatrician

The child was diagnosed with the flu May 14 at a temporary holding facility in Donna, Texas, and was moved with her family to Harlingen. Staff had about nine encounters with Anadith and her mother over the next four days over concerns including high fever, flu symptoms, nausea and breathing difficulties. She was given medications, a cold pack and a cold shower, according to the Office of Professional Responsibility.

Dr. Paul H. Wise, a Stanford University pediatrics professor who was in South Texas last week to look into the circumstances around what he said was a "preventable" death, said there should be little hesitation about sending ill children to the hospital, especially those with chronic conditions.

Anadith's mother told the AP that she informed staff of her child's conditions, which included sickle-cell anemia, and repeatedly asked for medical assistance and an ambulance to take her daughter to a hospital but the requests were denied until her child fell unconscious.

WATCH l Many border challenges remain just days after pandemic restrictions end:

Services strained at U.S.-Mexico border

21 days ago

Duration 1:57

The chaos at the U.S.-Mexico border that some feared didn't materialize with the expiry of the pandemic-era immigration policy known as Title 42. The policy that replaced it has left hundreds of migrants waiting to enter, filling emergency shelters fast.

Anadith entered Brownsville, Texas, with her parents and two older siblings May 9 when daily illegal crossings topped 10,000 as migrants sought to beat the end of pandemic-related Title 42 restrictions on seeking asylum.

Average time in custody has dropped by more than half for families in two weeks, Miller said, as the U.S. grapples to deal with the wave of migrants and new policies surrounding asylum.

App complaints continue

U.S. authorities on Thursday expanded slots to seek asylum at land crossings with Mexico through a mobile app for the second time in less than a month, seeking to dispel doubts it isn't a viable option. There are now 1,250 appointments daily at eight land crossings via the app, up from 1,000 previously and 740 in early May.

The increase "reflects our commitment to continue to expand lawful options for migrants," said Blas Nuñez-Neto, the Homeland Security Department's assistant secretary for border and immigration policy. "We'll continue to expand appointments at the border as our operations allow in terms of capacity."

After pandemic-related asylum restrictions ended May 11, the Biden administration continued its embrace of a carrot-and-stick approach to the border, introducing a general ban on asylum for people who travel through other countries, like Mexico, and enter the U.S. illegally.

U.S. authorities are trying to funnel people to "legal pathways" like CBP One and parole for up to 30,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans who apply online with a financial sponsor and arrive by air. CBP One is for people of any nationality who apply in central and northern and northern Mexico and enter by land.

As It Happens6:37Migrants hopeful as U.S. ends Title 42, says aid worker. But many will still be turned away

Migrant aid worker Enrique Valenzuela is trying to warn people crossing the U.S. border in Juarez, Mexico, that they have a slim chance of being granted asylum on the other side.

Beatriz Melchor, 47, said she would wait to see if the latest increase has an impact. She has been trying the app for about six weeks with her husband and son and said changes announced in early May have produced no noticeable benefit. The changes included giving higher priority to asylum seekers who have been trying the app longest and making appointments available throughout the day instead of all at once, which created mad rushes.

"We have more than a month trying and there are people here nine days, four days, and they get their appointments," she said.

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