8-year-old migrant dies in US custody at border

An eight-year-old girl died in US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) custody at a hospital in Texas, becoming the second migrant child to die in government custody in the US this spring.

The child and her family were in custody at an agency facility in Harlingen, Texas when the girl suffered a medical emergency and was transported to a local hospital, according to a CPB statement.

Information about her name and place of birth has not yet been not released following her death on Wednesday.

The death in Harlingen, a small city in the Rio Grande Valley just north of the US-Mexico border, comes just a week after a 17-year-old boy from Honduras died while detained at a facility for unaccompanied minors run by the US Department of Health and Human Services in Florida.

That child was reportedly the first minor to die in US custody since President Joe Biden took office after six children died in US custody during the tenure of his predecessor Donald Trump.

Mr Biden’s immigration politics have been in the spotlight in recent weeks with the lifting of Title 42, a pandemic-era order that allowed the US to quickly expel migrants and asylum-seekers who arrived from Mexico for purported public health reasons.

The overall number of border crossings has dropped significantly since Title 42 ended last week, but the number of people in CPB custody increased last week to more than 28,000.

It may remain high in part because of an order from a federal judge in Florida that the agency cannot release migrants into the US without a court date.

Immigration activists decried the judge’s decision, arguing that it would lead to longer detention periods for migrants and unsafe conditions at detention centres like the one in Harlingen, while a medical expert cited by the Justice Department has concurred in a court filing that the current pace of detentions could lead to “pose an increased risk of adverse health outcomes.”

Activists have also grown angry with Mr Biden, making the case that his immigration policies have not differed meaningfully from Mr Trump’s.

A major point of contention is a policy proposed in February that would make migrants ineligible for asylum in the US if they did not attempt to gain asylum in every country they passed through on their way to US soil.

CPB has said that the Office of Professional Responsibility, the agency’s internal affairs unit, is investigating the child’s death in Harlingen.