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7-Year-Old Migrant Girl Dies Of Dehydration And Shock In U.S. Border Patrol Custody

Central American migrants walk along the U.S. border fence looking for places to cross, in Tijuana, Mexico.
Rebecca Blackwell AP
Central American migrants walk along the U.S. border fence looking for places to cross, in Tijuana, Mexico.

Updated at 7:15 a.m. ET

A 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who crossed the southern border into the United States illegally earlier this month died of dehydration and shock after being apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol in New Mexico.

The girl and her father were part of a group of 163 people who surrendered to Border Patrol officers on the night of Dec. 6, south of Lordsburg N.M., according to the The Washington Post, which first reported the story.

In a statement sent to NPR, a spokesperson from the Department of Homeland Security, which includes the Border Patrol, stated, "As we have always said, traveling north illegally is extremely dangerous." The DHS representative added, "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."

Eight hours after the girl and her father were apprehended and taken into custody, she began having seizures and her body temperature was measured at 105.7 degrees by emergency responders.

The Post reports, citing a statement from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, that the girl "reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days."

The girl was flown by helicopter to an El Paso, Texas, hospital. She was revived after going into cardiac arrest but died less than 24 hours after being transported to the facility.

"On behalf of the Department of Homeland Security, our sincerest condolences go out to the family of the child," the spokesperson said. "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."

The CBP will investigate the case to determine whether the agency followed all correct procedures and policies.

The incident comes as U.S. officials say they are holding almost 15,000 immigrant children in nearly full detention facilities. At the same time, border agents are apprehending more families with children than ever.

In November, 25,172 "family units" were apprehended at the southern border, according to a CBP report, an increase of more than 2,000 families since October. Last year, 7,016 families were apprehended in November.

The Post also reported:

"The small Border Patrol station in Lordsburg received a single group of 227 migrants on Thursday, according to CBP, after taking in separate group of 123 on Wednesday. Both groups — extremely large by CBP standards — mostly consisted of families and children, according to the agency. "The agency said it was expecting an autopsy on the child, but results would not likely be available for several weeks. An initial diagnosis by physicians at El Paso's Providence Hospital listed the cause of death as septic shock, fever and dehydration."

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