Honduran teen dies in US immigration custody, weeks after crossing southern border
WASHINGTON (AP) — A 17-year-old boy from Honduras died this week in U.S. immigration custody, American and Honduran officials said Friday, underscoring concerns about a strained immigration system as the Biden administration manages the end of asylum restrictions known as Title 42.
The teenager was identified as Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza, according to a tweet from Honduran foreign relations minister Enrique Reina. Reina reported that Maradiaga has been held at a facility near Safety Harbor in Florida.
According to an anonymous U.S. official who spoke under condition of anonymity and was not authorized by the government to publicly speak about the case, he entered the U.S. a few weeks ago.
The cause of death and circumstances surrounding any illness or medical treatments were not immediately known.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for the facility in which Maradiaga had been held. A statement said that a review of medical records and an investigation by a physician examiner were underway.
HHS “is deeply saddened by this tragic loss and our heart goes out to the family, with whom we are in touch,” the department’s statement said.
Title 42 asylum restrictions expired on Thursday. The Biden administration announced new curbs for border crossers, which went into effect on Friday. Tens of thousands have attempted to cross the U.S. – Mexico border in recent weeks before the expiration of Title 42, Under which U.S. officials have expelled many but granted exemptions to others. This includes minors who cross the border without a parent.
It was the first death of an undocumented immigrant in custody under the Biden administration. During the tenure of Donald Trump, at least six children from foreign countries died while in U.S. care.
HHS has long-term facilities that hold children without parents who cross the border. These facilities are used to hold them until they find a sponsor. HHS facilities have beds, bathrooms and educational and recreational activities for minors.
HHS facilities, say those who oppose detention of children immigrant, are not designed to hold minors as long as they do.
HHS has custody of more than 8600 children. This number could rise dramatically in the next few weeks due to the change in border policies, the sharply increasing trends in migration in the Western Hemisphere as well as the usual spike of crossings in spring and summer.
Zeke Miller of AP White House Correspondent contributed to the report.