The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has completed its investigation into the death of a seven-year-old Guatemalan child who died in the custody of U.S. Border Patrol. The OIG found no misconduct or malfeasance on the part of DHS personnel.
The seven-year-old child and her father were both apprehended in Antelope Wells, New Mexico in Dec. 2018. While being transported to a Border Patrol facility some 90 miles away, the child reportedly became very ill. At Lordsburg, medical technicians provided care and the child was transported to a hospital by a commercial air ambulance. The father was driven separately to the hospital by Border Patrol personnel. The child died at the hospital the following day.
The state medical examiner performed an autopsy and determined the child "died of natural causes due to sequelae of Streptococcal sepsis," according to a summary of the investigation from the OIG. The bacteria is known to cause illnesses like strep throat, scarlet and acute rheumatic fever common in children between the ages five and 15.
Following the girl's death, DHS issued a statement warning of the "extremely dangerous" conditions involved in traveling north illegally into the United States. "Drug cartels, human smugglers and the elements pose daily risks to anyone who comes across the border illegally," the statement reads. "Border Patrol always takes care of individuals in their custody and does everything in their power to keep them safe.”
“Unfortunately," the statement continues, "despite our best efforts and the best efforts of the medical team treating the child, we were unable to stop this tragedy from occurring. Once again, we are begging parents to not put themselves or their children at risk attempting to enter illegally. Please present yourselves at a port of entry and seek to enter legally and safely."