A 7-year-old girl from Guatemala died of dehydration and shock after she was taken into Border Patrol custody last week for crossing from Mexico into the United States illegally with her father and a large group of migrants along a remote span of New Mexico desert.
Though much of the political and media attention has focused in recent weeks on migrant caravans arriving at the Tijuana-San Diego border, large numbers of Central Americans continue to cross the border into Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. The groups sometimes spend days walking through remote areas with little food or water before reaching the border.
According to CBP records, the girl and her father were taken into custody about 10 p.m. Dec. 6 south of Lordsburg, N.M., as part of a group of 163 people who approached U.S. agents to turn themselves in. More than eight hours later, the child began having seizures, CBP records show. Emergency responders measured her body temperature at 105.7 degrees. According to a statement from CBP, she “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days.” After a helicopter flight to Providence Children’s Hospital in El Paso, the child went into cardiac arrest and “was revived,” according to the agency. “However, the child did not recover and died at the hospital less than 24 hours after being transported,” CBP said.
In November, Border Patrol agents apprehended a record 25,172 “family unit members” on the southwest border — including 11,489 in the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol sector in southern Texas and 6,434 in the El Paso sector, which covers far western Texas and New Mexico.
There must be a solution for the safety of these children. A safe path, period. This child did not ask to be there. After a 30 day journey through the an area migrants are routinely targeted by bandits and kidnappers, she dies here.
We do not have an easy solution. On we like more than others would be setting up safe spaces on the border. Many of the migrants are intent on seeking asylum. This takes time. If this 7 year old girl had a safe place to wait, would they have entered illegally?
Setting up facilities in Mexico, near the border makes the most sense for now. Why? It saves lives and saves millions of dollars. Consider these facts.
The DHS projects there will be an average of 51,379 people held in immigration detention centers each day in fiscal 2018. According to ICE’s FY 2018 budget, on average it costs $133.99 a day to maintain one adult detention bed. The cost to maintain a family bed, which keeps mothers and children together in a family residential center, costs around $319 a day, according to DHS. It is most expensive to hold the thousands of separated children. Those beds cost $775 per person per night and is the fastest growing segment. Simple math shows that even at the middle price of $319, it comes to $16,389,901 per day and these are the low estimates.
Housing the current migrants in Mexico is estimated to be about $35,000 per day. If we sent 10 times that daily, we still save much of our $16 million current spending per day and the children are safer.
We pray for solutions.