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Mourning the Loss: New York Funeral for Girl Who Passed Away in Border Patrol Custody

by Andrew Wright
5 comments
migrant care scrutiny

In New York City, a heartfelt funeral was held for Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez, an 8-year-old girl who tragically lost her life while in Border Patrol custody. The solemn gathering saw balloons adorned with rainbows and Minnie Mouse, surrounding the young girl’s casket, as dozens of mourners paid their respects.

Anadith’s family had been en route to New York City last month when their journey across the southern U.S. border took an unfortunate turn, leading to this heartbreaking incident. The untimely death of the child has sparked fresh scrutiny on the U.S. government’s handling of detained migrants.

Expressing gratitude, Anadith’s mother, Mabel Alvarez Benedicks, embraced nearly every guest at the R.G. Ortiz Funeral Home, thanking them for joining in honoring her beloved daughter. Overwhelmed with grief, she clutched a handful of tissues to wipe away her tears and soothe her anguish.

Anadith had a documented medical history, including heart problems and sickle cell anemia, as stated by her mother. However, an internal investigation revealed that Border Patrol medical personnel had been informed of the girl’s condition but had neglected to review her file. Tragically, she suffered a seizure and passed away on May 17, the ninth day of her family’s custody.

“We are bidding our baby farewell, praying that she may rest in eternal peace,” declared the Alvarez family in a poignant statement. “We seek justice for our daughter, and we will not rest until we see it served. This must never happen again, and we will fight for a system that safeguards the innocent.”

As Anadith’s casket was gently closed, Benedicks succumbed to sorrow, weeping openly. A compassionate pastor led the attendees in a heartfelt song, emphasizing that the family’s journey from their homeland was motivated by their desperate pursuit of a cure and medical assistance for their ailing daughter.

Rossel Reyes, Anadith’s father, pointed to poster boards adorned with cherished photographs of his daughter. He reminisced about her joyous bike rides during their time in Mexico and her unwavering presence by his side during their stay in Honduras. He tearfully expressed how he would think of her every day, cherishing her kindness and compassion.

Anadith, born in Panama, tragically passed away in a Border Patrol station in Harlingen, Texas. A little over a week earlier, her family of five had surrendered to border agents after crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico.

While in custody, Anadith tested positive for influenza. Her mother had reportedly informed agents and staff about her medical history, but a preliminary report from CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility revealed that medical staff had declined to review the file.

Late Thursday, CBP made an announcement regarding the reassignment of Dr. David Tarantino, the chief medical officer, in the aftermath of Anadith’s death. The agency stated its intention to bring in additional senior leadership to facilitate decisive action across the organization.

The family’s entry into the U.S. coincided with a surge in daily illegal border crossings, with numbers surpassing 10,000, as migrants sought to beat the end of pandemic-related asylum restrictions, lifted on May 11.

During their time in Harlingen, the girl experienced various health issues, including stomachaches, nausea, breathing difficulties, and a fever that spiked at 104.9 degrees Fahrenheit (40.5 degrees Celsius) the day before her passing, as reported by CBP.

The nurse practitioner attending to Anadith allegedly denied three or four requests from her mother for an ambulance, until the young girl collapsed into her mother’s arms, losing consciousness.

“The girl’s deteriorating condition, her mother’s persistent concerns, and the treatments required to manage her condition all pointed to the need for transferring her to a hospital for more advanced care,” stated the Office of Professional Responsibility.

Dr. Paul H. Wise, a pediatrics professor from Stanford University who conducted an investigation into the circumstances surrounding this tragic and preventable death, emphasized that there should be no hesitation in sending ill children to the hospital, particularly those with chronic conditions.

Legal representatives from the Texas Civil Rights Project and the Haitian Bridge Alliance, an NGO assisting the family, have requested an independent autopsy to ascertain the cause of Anadith’s untimely demise.

“When I received the news of Anadith’s passing, my heart shattered into a million pieces,” shared Guerline Jozef, founder of the immigration advocacy non-profit Haitian Bridge Alliance, during the wake. The ceremony concluded with a group of artists performing a poignant song accompanied by maracas and drums.

The family has announced that Anadith will be laid to rest on Saturday at a cemetery in New Jersey.


Reporting from McAllen, Texas, Gonzalez.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about migrant care scrutiny

What was the purpose of the funeral held in New York City?

The funeral was held to mourn the loss of an 8-year-old girl who tragically died in Border Patrol custody and to pay respects to her memory.

What has sparked scrutiny regarding the care of detained migrants?

The death of the young girl has brought attention to the care provided to thousands of detained migrants by the U.S. government, prompting a closer examination of the practices and protocols in place.

What medical conditions did the girl have?

The girl had a history of heart problems and sickle cell anemia, as disclosed by her mother.

Were Border Patrol medical personnel aware of the girl’s medical history?

Yes, an internal investigation revealed that Border Patrol medical personnel were informed about the girl’s medical history but failed to review her file before she suffered a fatal seizure.

What action has been taken by the U.S. government after the girl’s death?

The chief medical officer of the Border Patrol has been reassigned, and additional senior leadership is being brought in to address the situation and drive improvements across the agency.

Have any requests been made for further investigation?

Yes, attorneys and advocacy groups have requested an independent autopsy to determine the exact cause of the girl’s death, seeking a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.

What are the concerns raised about the medical response in this case?

Critics have expressed concerns that despite the girl’s deteriorating condition, her mother’s persistent concerns, and the series of treatments required to manage her condition, medical personnel did not transfer her to a hospital for more advanced care.

Is there any push for justice or accountability?

The family is seeking justice for their daughter’s death and aims to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. They are determined to fight for a system that safeguards the lives of innocent individuals.

Where will the girl be laid to rest?

The girl will be buried at a cemetery in New Jersey, as announced by her family.

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5 comments

SamwiseG June 17, 2023 - 6:12 am

dis story reminds us dat we need 2 do bettr 4 migrants. dey come searchin 4 a better life & help, not 2 suffer & lose der loved ones. it’s time 4 change! #ImmigrationReform

Reply
EllaMay June 17, 2023 - 11:12 am

how can dey not send a sick child 2 da hospital? it’s common sense! medical staff shud know bettr. dis case shows a serious lack of compassion & care. #HumanityFirst

Reply
Lily23 June 17, 2023 - 12:41 pm

my heart goes out 2 Anadith’s family. such a tragic loss! i hope dey get da justice dey seek. it’s important 2 hold ppl accountable 4 medical negligence! #RIPAnadith

Reply
JohnnyBoy June 17, 2023 - 7:04 pm

omg, can’t belive border patrol didn’t even read her medical file! sooo neglegent! she deserved bettr care. dese r da consequences of dat system. #MigrantLivesMatter

Reply
EmmaBee June 17, 2023 - 7:32 pm

wow, dis text is so sad! itz heartbreaking 2 hear bout dis poor litl girl who died in border patrol custody. dey need 2 do bettr wit migrant care! #JusticeForAnadith

Reply

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