The migrant’s paradox: when death awaits on the other side
The death of a seven-year-old Guatemalan girl in the custody of the U.S. Border Patrol puts the focus back on the questionable conditions of detention to which migrants are subjected to once they survive the journey fleeing home.
The vast majority of immigrants who try to cross the border from Mexico into the United States say that anything is better than staying in their home countries, remaining exposed to the violence and hunger they are fleeing.
Yet, many of them find themselves in an even worse reality once they reach the other side.
Such was the case for a seven-year-old girl who tried to cross the border with her father and other migrants last week.
After having managed to complete much of the journey, the group was arrested "along a remote span of New Mexico desert," and they went into the custody of the Border Patrol, the Washington Post reported.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a statement explaining that the girl and her father were arrested on Dec. 6 around 10 p.m., and eight hours later she began to have seizures brought on by a fever.
According to CBP, she "reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days.”
When the officials immediately transferred her to the Providence Children's Hospital in El Paso, the girl suffered a heart attack that she didn’t recover from.
Although CBP has confirmed that it will take necessary steps to evaluate the case and guarantee that the procedure was carried out correctly, all fingers point to a generalized negligence within the Administration when dealing with undocumented immigrants.
Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have blamed the authorities for "the culture of cruelty" within their agencies, and the crisis orchestrated by the U.S. government seems to support this type of accusations.
This is not the first time that an immigrant has died in the hands of the Border Patrol.
In May, a Border Patrol agent in the Rio Grande area of Texas killed an undocumented immigrant. Her name was Claudia Gómez, a 20-year-old from San Juan Ostuncalco, Guatemala.
Just a month after that incident, a Honduran immigrant who was part of the Refugee Caravan, died in the custody of ICE after being subjected to confinement in low temperatures. Her name was Roxana Hernández. She was a 33-year-old transgender woman fleeing her country because of the risk posed by her gender identity in Central America.
And, it doesn’t stop there.
An investigation between ProPublica and Mother Jones last September determined the emotional and physical damage suffered by the thousands of undocumented immigrant children who are being held by government agencies.
"Children - many of whom are reeling from the trauma of rape, violence or other abuse in their home countries or during their treks to the United States - languish as caseworkers try to find sponsors and persuade them to undergo background checks," the report says. "Those without relatives or family friends in the United States remain in custody even longer, sometimes rejected by long-term foster care programs already filled to capacity."
And to make matters worse, an AP investigation showed last month that the Trump Administration "has put at risk the safety of thousands of teenagers in detention camps" by overlooking background checks on their caregivers and mental health workers.
While it is possible that this seven-year-old girl died as a result of her trip to the border, it’s increasingly difficult to separate U.S. government agencies from the mistreatment of immigrants.