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Migrant minor dies in US government custody

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Officers. (ICE/Released)
May 13, 2023

An unaccompanied 17-year-old migrant minor died Friday after arriving in the U.S. without parents or guardians. A death of this nature hasn’t occurred in years, according to reports. The child’s name, according to Honduran foreign affairs secretary Enrique Reina, is Angel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza. The United States government needs to pursue an “exhaustive investigation” into his death, Reina said. Espinoza was staying in a shelter that houses unaccompanied children just west of Tampa.

The Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged the death, but no further details were provided. U.S. officials told CBS News that the death was unrelated to any altercation.

“[The department] is deeply saddened by this tragic loss and our heart goes out to the family, with whom we are in touch,” the agency said.

Refugee Resettlement, a division of HHS, houses and cares for children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border without legal guardians. It is a federal law that border officials must transfer unaccompanied minors to ORR within 72 hours of their arrival at the border. The U.S. allows unaccompanied children to stay in refugee camps and other facilities until their 18th birthday or until a sponsor in the country claims them.

As of Wednesday, 8,681 unaccompanied children were in the care of HHS, and unaccompanied children spend an average of 29 days in ORR custody. A majority of minors referred to ORR were older than 14 years old, with 64% being boys. Unaccompanied children are typically matched with a sponsor, usually a relative, and released.

READ MORE: Judge blocks Biden from releasing illegal immigrants without court dates as Title 42 ends

An ORR medical examiner is investigating the child’s death, according to the HHS statement. A medical examiner is reviewing all clinical details in this case, including all inpatient health care records. Children in the custody of the ORR “have access to health care, legal services, translation services, mental health counselors, and can speak to their families in a private setting at least twice a week.”

U.S. officials have implemented new asylum and deportation policies to discourage illegal migration after Title 42 expired at midnight on Thursday, an anti-pandemic restriction that expired at midnight on Thursday. Following President Donald Trump’s implementation of Title 42, thousands of migrants were immediately expelled.