A Congolese woman seeking asylum died on Christmas Day in United States government custody shortly after she entered a border station in South Texas, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has said.
CBP in a statement issued on Thursday said the 41-year-old woman, who the agency did not identify, had arrived at an official port of entry in Laredo, Texas, early on Tuesday afternoon with her husband and two children. She had paperwork that documented a “previous medical condition,” and the agency’s medical personnel cleared her to be detained overnight.
The agency’s statement says the woman told CBP officers early on Wednesday that “she was suffering from abdominal pain and had vomited”. The agency said it contacted emergency personnel “immediately” and had her taken to a local hospital.
According to information CBP gave members of Congress, the woman was diagnosed at the hospital with acute kidney failure. A congressional aide who spoke on condition of anonymity provided details to The Associated Press. CBP did not identify her illness in its public statement.
“The subject’s health declined rapidly and she passed away at the hospital,” CBP’s public statement said.
Agents at official crossings between the US and Mexico have stopped tens of thousands of asylum seekers from entering the country under policies enacted by President Donald Trump‘s administration, limiting crossings at many ports to just a few people daily and forcing others to wait in Mexico.
Trump has slashed the number of asylum seekers and migrants allowed into the US – a focus issue of his administration and a key policy of his reelection campaign in 2020.
The US has struggled to contain a growing flow of migrants, mostly Central Americans fleeing gang violence, political persecution and extreme poverty. Most try to enter through the country’s southern border with Mexico. Officials say over 810,000 people were detained at US borders this budget year, a record high.
CBP told Congress that its officers admitted the woman and her family as part of the daily number of people allowed to enter at the Gateway to the Americas bridge.
The agency says the Webb County medical examiner “has determined that the death is not suspicious, as the individual had a preexisting medical condition”.
Deaths in CBP custody
At least 11 people died this year after entering CBP’s custody, according to statements posted on the agency’s website.
Carlos Hernandez Vasquez, a 16-year-old teenager from Guatemala, died of the flu inside a Border Patrol cell in Weslaco, Texas, in May. Surveillance video later showed he had been lying unresponsive for several hours despite the agency’s claims that it did regular checks on him.
The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general last week cleared CBP of any wrongdoing in the deaths of two children, seven-year-old Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin and eight-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo, last December.
Both cases raised questions about whether the children received medical care quickly enough.
Jakelin was not transported from a remote border outpost to a larger Border Patrol station for seven hours. Felipe was taken to a hospital in New Mexico with a fever, released, then taken with his father to a holding facility at a highway checkpoint. Several hours later, after agents had helped clean up his vomit, he was taken back to a hospital where he soon died.