May 22 (UPI) — A 10-year-old girl from El Salvador died while in custody of the U.S. government last year, officials said Wednesday.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Mark Weber said the girl had a history of congenital heart defects and was in a “medically fragile state” when she was placed under the care of an Office of Refugee Resettlement facility in San Antonio. He confirmed her death in a statement to CBS News.
Weber said the girl arrived at the facility on March 4, 2018. Complications from a surgical procedure left her in a comatose state and she was released from a San Antonio hospital and transported to a nursing facility in Phoenix for palliative care in May 2018.
She was later transferred to an Omaha nursing facility on Sept. 26 to be closer to her family and three days later was transported to Children’s Hospital of Omaha, where she died due to fever and respiratory distress.
The girl was the first of six migrant children to die in U.S. custody or shortly after release in the past eight months. It had not been previously reported.
Officials are required to notify local child welfare authorities of the deaths of migrant children in government custody and to report them internally, but they are not required to announce them publicly.
The House Homeland Security Committee questioned acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan about the five previously known deaths on Wednesday, NBC News reported.
“Congress has been more than willing to provide resources and to work with you, Mr. Secretary, to address the security and humanitarian concerns and at this point, with five children dead and 5,000 separated from their families, this is intentional,” Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., said.
McAleenan described Underwood’s statement as an “appalling accusation” and the committee voted to strike the comments from the record.
“Our men and women fight hard to protect people in our custody every single day,” McAleenan said.