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45-year-old Mexican migrant is the third person to die in Border Patrol custody since December

The person’s death follows the December deaths of two Guatemalan children in Border Patrol custody.

by Emma Ockerman
Feb 19 2019, 4:00pm

A 45-year-old undocumented immigrant who was arrested in the border town of Roma, Texas, died Monday morning after about two weeks in Border Patrol custody. He's the third migrant to die in the agency’s custody since December.

The person, who illegally crossed the border into Texas and was arrested by the Roma Police Department on Feb. 2, had been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and congestive heart failure, and their identity has not been released. The migrant’s official cause of death isn’t yet known. It’s also unclear whether the person was seeking an asylum claim in the U.S., although Customs and Border Protection said in a statement Monday that the migrant was arrested for illegal reentry.

The day they were arrested, the person asked for medical attention and was taken to the Mission Regional Medical Center, about 50 miles from Roma, and “cleared.” The person was released that day from the hospital into the custody of Customs and Border Protection agents, and requested medical attention again. The next day, Feb. 3, they were taken to the McAllen Medical Center, where they died Monday.

“This loss of life is tragic. Our condolences go out to the family and loved ones,” Andrew Meehan, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in the Monday statement. The agency has faced three consecutive months of a record number of migrants attempting to enter the country, according to the New York Times.

“CBP remains committed to ensuring the safe and humane treatment of those within the care of our custody,” Meehan said in the statement.

The person’s death follows the December deaths of two Guatemalan children in Border Patrol custody: Jakelin Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old, and Felipe Alonzo Gomez, an 8-year-old. Maquin died about 24 hours after she and her father turned themselves in to Border Patrol in New Mexico, after she was diagnosed with kidney failure, exhaustion, dehydration and shock. Gomez died after he became sick when he and his father crossed into New Mexico; an autopsy showed he tested positive for influenza type B. After the deaths of the the two children, the federal government announced it would conduct more-frequent medical checks.

The Trump administration called Maquin’s death a “horrific, tragic situation” but said it could have been prevented by stricter immigration policies. The third migrant death comes as President Donald Trump faces legal challenges over the national emergency he declared to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Additionally, Congress reached a budget compromise last week that includes $415 million for humanitarian aid, including medical care, at the border — nearly half of what DHS asked for — according to the Washington Post.

Cover: Members of the National Guard watch from the banks of the Rio Grande near the International Bridge, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, in Roma, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)