Funeral held for 8-year-old who died in Border Patrol custody

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(NEW YORK) — Relatives and friends poured into a funeral home in the Bronx Friday to pay respect and condolences to the family of Anadith Danay Reyes Álvarez, an 8-year-old girl who died in U.S. Border Patrol custody in Texas last month.

Teddy bears and pink balloons featuring Minnie Mouse surrounded the casket. A Honduran flag was prominently placed near the front of the chapel during the service.

Anadith was a Panamanian national and her parents are Honduran.

“We are not going to bury her. We are planting her. May the future generations know who she was,” said Pastor Arnold Ciego.

Her father shared that Anadith was a caring girl who would turn to him and say “let’s help them” when she saw people in need on the street.

Anadith died on May 17 and an ongoing investigation by U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), which upholds the agency’s ethical standards, has resulted in several of the medical providers involved in the incident being prohibited from working in CBP facilities.

A CBP official told ABC News the agency’s top medical officer, Dr. David Tarantino, has been temporarily reassigned, but did not disclose what his new roles would be.

“Dr. David Tarantino has played a key role in significantly expanding the provision of medical care to individuals in CBP custody. As CBP works to implement required improvements to our medical care policies and processes, including from the ongoing investigation into the tragic in-custody death of a child in Harlingen, we are bringing in additional senior leadership to drive action across the agency,” CBP said in a statement.

Anadith’s parents and two siblings were taken into custody near Brownsville, Texas, on May 9, according to CBP. During a medical screening the next day, the family reported Anadith suffered from sickle cell anemia and heart disease. CBP says Anadith complained of abdominal pain, nasal congestion, and a cough on May 14 and tested positive for influenza.

Medical personnel gave Anadith flu and nausea medication and transferred the family to a Border Patrol station in Harlingen, Texas, that is used for detainees that need medical isolation or who have been exposed to communicable diseases.

Between May 14 and the early hours of May 17, medical personnel had around 9 encounters with the girl and her mother, Mabel, the preliminary CPB report said.

On May 16, she had a fever of 104.9 degrees, the review said. Personnel treated her with ice packs, fever reducing medications and a cold shower.

“Despite the girl’s condition, her mother’s concerns, and the series of treatments required to manage her condition, contracted medical personnel did not transfer her to a hospital for higher-level care,” CBP said in a statement.

The OPR investigation found that Anadith was seen by a nurse four times after she complained of stomachache, nausea, and difficulty breathing on May 17.

The nurse “reported denying three or four requests from the girl’s mother for an ambulance to be called or for her to be taken to the hospital,” CBP said.

The investigation also found the nurse had “declined” to review a “pile of documents” that were in the family’s possession, but gave the girl a folic acid tablet upon her mother’s request. By 1:55 PM, Anadith “appeared to be having a seizure” and became unresponsive. Doctors at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen declared her deceased by 2:50 p.m.

CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller said in a statement earlier this month, that in addition from barring some of the medical providers involved in the incident from working at CBP facilities, the agency is addressing “deficiencies.”

The agency is now deploying clinicians from the United States Public Health Service to CBP facilities across the country and it has ordered a review of the medical contractor’s practices, Miller said.

The ongoing investigation also revealed that medical personnel “failed to document numerous medical encounters, emergency antipyretic interventions, and administrations of medicine.”

“Ana’s death could have been prevented if her and her mother’s cries for medical attention were not dismissed while in CBP custody. When it comes to Black people, we always must fight to prove our humanity and even then, our humanity is denied. No mother and father should have to endure this immense pain,” said Guerline Jozef, the co-founder and executive director of the nonprofit Haitian Bridge Alliance.

OPR said records indicated here was an outage of the camera surveillance system at Harlingen Station during the time of the incident and that it was not reported to them as required.

“The recent in-custody death of an eight-year-old child in our custody in Harlingen, Texas was a deeply upsetting and unacceptable tragedy. We can —and we will— do better to ensure this never happens again,” Miller said.

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