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Seven-year-old girl dies while in custody at US-Mexico border crossing

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By Cristina Abellan Matamoros  with AP
Seven-year-old girl dies while in custody at US-Mexico border crossing
Copyright  REUTERS

A seven-year-old girl died under Border Patrol custody after crossing the US-Mexico border with her father last week, federal immigration authorities said on Thursday.

The Washington Post (WP) reported the girl died from dehydration eight hours after being arrested.

The girl, from Guatemala, was reportedly travelling with a group of 163 people who turned themselves into agents on December 6.

US Border Patrol agents have seen an increasing number of families with young children approaching them to turn themselves in, so they can be granted asylum. Many of them, Central Americans, say they are fleeing violence in their home country.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) records seen by the WP reportedly showed the girl started having seizures eight hours after being detained. She started having a temperature of 40.5 degrees Celsius and was flown to a hospital in El Paso, Texas, by helicopter. She had a cardiac arrest and died 24 hours later.

According to the WP, the statement from the CBP said "she had not eaten or consumed water for several days.”

It’s not clear what happened to her in the eight hours before she started having the seizures.

A statement by the US Department of Homeland Security, given to NBC, read: “Despite our best efforts and the best efforts of the medical team treating the child, we were unable to stop this tragedy from occurring.

"Once again, we are begging parents to not put themselves or their children at risk attempting to enter illegally."

The girl’s death has raised questions about her treatment by border officials while she was in custody.

Someone arrested by Border Patrol authorities usually doesn’t spend more than 72 hours in custody before they are transferred to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency or, if Mexican, deported.