Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez died on May 17 after she and her family spent over a week in a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) facility. The agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility is looking into her death to find out what went wrong. Records show the child suffered from sickle cell anemia and heart disease, but the agency confirmed that Border Patrol officials and medical professionals allegedly repeatedly denied requests to send Reyes Alvarez to a hospital. The findings were obtained from a series of interviews with Border Patrol officials because the security cameras in the holding facility were not working at the time of her death.
Medical personnel at a Border Patrol facility in Harlingen, Texas saw the child nine separate times between May 14 and May 17, the day of her death. The family was being held there after Reyes Alvarez tested positive for the flu.
The Office of Professional Accountability also reported that the family was first apprehended by the Border Patrol on May 9 after they were caught crossing into the U.S. near Brownsville, Texas. Officials said it’s still not clear why the family was in custody for over a week, considering the agency isn’t allowed to hold detainees for more than three days.
During that time, Reyes Alvarez experienced intense pain and symptoms of the flu. She was diagnosed with a fever and a reported temperature of 104.9 degrees. The medical personnel gave her Tamiflu, fever medication, ice packs, and a cold shower. But she never reached the hospital.
“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,” the CBP investigators said.
On May 17, Reyes Alvarez complained of a stomach ache, nausea, and trouble breathing. A nurse contractor saw her four times that day alone and told investigators that she checked the child’s breathing every time, which appeared to be normal. But she again refused to send the child to the hospital.
“The nurse practitioner also 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,” the agency added.
Around 2 p.m. in the afternoon, Reyes Alvarez’s mother came back to the health unit carrying her daughter, who “appeared to be having a seizure,” according to officials. The child became unresponsive, at which point the nurse called an ambulance and began administering CPR.
The EMS arrived a few minutes later to transport the young patient to the hospital, but she was pronounced dead some 50 minutes later.
Autopsy records revealed the “presence of pleural effusions within the chest cavity, mentioned evidence that had been observed of the attempted surgical repair of the girl’s aortic stenosis, and also referenced the provided history of sickle cell anemia,” according to CBP.
The agency added that none of the nurses or agency personnel it has interviewed claimed to have been aware of Reyes Alvarez’s sickle cell anemia and heart condition. It also found that the personnel did not document several healthcare visits with the child.
CBP commissioner Troy Miller responded to the report by calling Reyes Alvarez’s death a tragedy. He said the agency has launched a review of cases involving medically vulnerable migrant children in detention to make sure they were properly transferred out of CBP custody.
“The CBP Office of Professional Responsibility’s (OPR) updated statement on the investigation of this May 17, 2023 death provides important new information on this tragic death that will inform our efforts to ensure that this does not happen again,” Miller added.
Reyes Alvarez was born in Panama and her family is from Honduras. Her siblings and parents were released from CBP custody following her death.
“They killed my daughter, because she was nearly a day and a half without being able to breathe,” Reyes Alvarez told the Associated Press. “She cried and begged for her life, and they ignored her. They didn’t do anything for her.”