FACT CHECK: Was A 7-Year-Old Girl In Border Patrol Custody For A Week Before Dying Of Dehydration?

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

UPDATE: On Saturday, lawyers for the 7-year-old’s family disputed Customs and Border Protection’s claim that she reportedly had not had food or water for several days and said that her father “made sure she was fed and had sufficient water.” They also suggested that the girl’s father, who speaks a Mayan language and knows Spanish as a second language, did not understand the English health form that he signed that said the girl showed no signs of sickness.

Politico reported in its Huddle newsletter Friday that a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl died a week after being taken into Border Patrol custody.

“Top House Democrats are calling for a ‘full investigation’ into the death of a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala, who died of dehydration and shock just one week after she was taken into Border Patrol Custody,” the newsletter said.

Laypeople on Twitter also claimed Friday that the girl was in Border Patrol custody for a week before dying.

“Which part of ‘she died of dehydration after being in Border Patrol’s custody for a week’ are you CHOOSING not to understand?” said one tweet.

“[A] 7 year old little girl died of dehydration & shock after being in the custody of border patrol for a week. How are people okay with this????” another user said.

Verdict: False

The girl was in Border Patrol custody for around eight hours before local emergency services transported her to an El Paso hospital, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said. She reportedly had not eaten or had water for several days. The girl died after less than 24 hours in the hospital.

Fact Check:

News outlets reported the girl’s death about a week after the incident. Border Patrol took the 7-year-old and her father into custody on Dec. 6 outside of Lordsburg, N.M., the Washington Post reported Thursday. They were part of a group of 163 migrants who approached border agents to turn themselves in.

Around eight hours after being taken into custody, the girl started having seizures. She “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days,” Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told WaPo.

Border Patrol emergency medical technicians took the girl’s temperature and found that she had a 105.7-degree fever, DHS told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email. Border Patrol then called local emergency medical services, which took the girl in an air ambulance to an El Paso hospital.

DHS said that the girl was revived at the hospital after going into cardiac arrest. “However, the child did not recover and died at the hospital less than 24 hours after being transported,” DHS told TheDCNF.

Politico issued a correction after an inquiry from TheDCNF. It updated the online archive of the newsletter to say that the girl died “less than 48 hours after she was taken into Border Patrol Custody.”

DHS told TheDCNF that the girl was in Border Patrol custody for eight hours, while WaPo and Associated Press reports suggest that she was in custody for up to an hour or so longer.

CBP records, WaPo reported, showed that she was taken into custody at about 10 p.m. and that she started having seizures nearly eight-and-a-half hours later at 6:25 a.m. Emergency responders arrived soon after that to take her to the El Paso hospital, WaPo said.

The Associated Press reported that the girl, her father and the rest of the group of 163 migrants were taken into custody at about 9:15 p.m., and then transported in two groups via bus to the Lordsburg Border Patrol station about 90 miles away. The girl and her father boarded the bus at about 4:30 a.m. and arrived at the station at about 6:30 a.m., AP said, over nine hours after being apprehended.

The girl reportedly vomited on the bus and was not breathing when she arrived at the Border Patrol station. AP said that she died at the hospital around midnight on Dec. 8, a little more than 24 hours after being apprehended.

Politico noted that House Democrats, including Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman-elect Joaquin Castro and California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, called for a “full investigation” into the 7-year-old’s death.

It is not clear whether border agents knew that the girl was dehydrated and ill or whether she was given anything to eat or drink. AP reported that a Border Patrol form completed shortly after she was detained said that she showed no signs of sickness. The form appeared to be signed by her father.

DHS said that the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility “will investigate to ensure all appropriate policies were followed.” The department expects an autopsy, but results may take several weeks.

“Once again, we are begging parents to not put themselves or their children at risk attempting to enter illegally,” a DHS spokesperson told TheDCNF. “Every year the Border Patrol saves hundreds of people who are overcome by the elements between our ports of entry. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts and the best efforts of the medical team treating the child, we were unable to stop this tragedy from occurring.”

DHS offered condolences to the child’s family. “Border Patrol agents took every possible step to save the child’s life under the most trying of circumstances. As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child.”

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter