On a cool night on Dec. 6, at around 9.15 p.m., a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl and her father, along with a group of about 160 migrants, turned themselves into United States agents in the New Mexico desert after illegally crossing the border.
Twenty-four hours later, the girl was dead.
Agents brought the group to the nearby Antelope Wells Port of Entry — one of the smallest and most remote in the country — where four border agents initially screened them to identify any immediate health or safety problems. The agents also gave the adults forms, written in English but verbally translated, to fill out. On the form, the father said that his daughter had no health problems.
Around 10 p.m., the first group of migrants, which included unaccompanied minors, were loaded onto a bus destined for Lordsburg, New Mexico, a border patrol forward operating base — where migrants are processed and assigned to detention centers — about 95 miles away from Antelope Wells.
For the next six hours, the girl and her father waited with the second group at Antelope Wells, where they were reportedly given access to water and restrooms. At 4.30 a.m., the second group — father and daughter included — was loaded onto the bus. Prior to departure, the father told agents that his daughter had gotten sick and started to vomit on the bus.
Agents notified the Lordsburg station to prepare to receive a sick child. But by the time they arrived at the Lordsburg station two hours later, the girl wasn’t breathing, had a fever of 105.4, and was having seizures.
"As we have always said, traveling north illegally is extremely dangerous."
Emergency medics were able to revive her at 7:00 a.m. local time, and at 7:45 a.m., she was airlifted to a children’s hospital in El Paso, Texas. Border Patrol agents transported her father to the hospital in a government vehicle. Doctors discovered she was experiencing brain swelling and had to be put on a ventilator. Soon after, she was diagnosed with liver failure and died, although DHS wouldn’t specify exactly what time.
“As we have always said, traveling north illegally is extremely dangerous,” DHS said in a statement. “Border Patrol always takes care of individuals in their custody and does everything in their power to keep them safe.”
Homeland Security’s Inspector General has taken over the investigation from Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility. An autopsy is expected, and the results might not be available for several weeks, a DHS spokesperson said. According to records obtained by the Washington Post, the girl had not eaten for several days and died of dehydration and shock.
“Border Patrol agents took every possible step to save the child’s life under the most trying of circumstances,” DHS said in a statement. “Once again, we are begging parents to not put themselves or their children at risk attempting to enter illegally.”
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, led by Rep. Joaquin Castro, released a statement earlier calling on the Inspector General to conduct a “full investigation into the conditions and circumstances that led to her death.”
“We can and must do better as a nation,” Castro said in the statement and linked to a scathing report by DHS’ Inspector General that found the Trump Administration's policy of limiting asylum seekers at ports of entry has forced migrants to cross the border elsewhere, which has meant “making dangerous treks across the desert in search of safety, and a better life,” he said.
Civil rights groups have repeatedly accused the Trump Administration for providing substandard medical care to immigrants in detention. Last month, a mother whose toddler died after getting sick in ICE custody filed a $60 million wrongful death suit.
Cover image: In this photo taken Feb. 21, 2013, a Normandy-style vehicle barrier is seen on the border of Mexico, left, and the United States in Lordsburg, New Mexico. (AP Photo/Las Cruces Sun-News, Shari V. Hill)
This article originally appeared on VICE News US.