The Department of Health and Human Services confirmed on Friday that an unaccompanied migrant child died in U.S. custody.
The confirmation came hours after the Biden administration ended the COVID-19 emergency. Because the COVID-19 emergency ended, a Title 42 provision that caused many migrants to be immediately turned away at the border was lifted.
Unaccompanied minors, however, were exempt from the Title 42 provision.
Honduran Secretary of Foreign AffairsEnrique Reina confirmed that Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza, 17, died in U.S. custody. Espinoza was in an Office of Refugee Resettlement shelter in Safety Harbor, Florida, Reina said.
"The Government of Honduras, through the Embassy in Washington, is in contact with the family and has requested that ORR and HHS carry out an exhaustive investigation of the case and apply the full weight of the law to those responsible,” Reina said. "This terrible incident highlights the importance of working together [with the U.S.] on the bilateral migration agenda that focuses on unaccompanied minors to find solutions."
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Federal officials said they could not share details surrounding the child’s death for safety and privacy reasons.
“While in ORR care, children have access to health care, legal services, translation services, and mental and behavioral health counselors and are able to connect with family through a phone call in a private area at a minimum of twice a week,” an HHS spokesperson said.
During Friday's White House Press Briefing, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that she has not spoken to President Joe Biden on the matter but they are aware of the child's death.
"We are certainly aware of the tragic loss, and our hearts go out to the family, and as I just mentioned, being a mother and celebrating Mother's Day on Sunday, it is very devastating news," said Jean-Pierre."There is a medical investigation that was opened on May 10, and so I don't want to get ahead of that; we've gotta let the investigation go through."
According to U.S. data, 128,904 unaccompanied children were cared for by the Office of Refugee Resettlement in fiscal year 2022. The number of unaccompanied child migrants significantly increased during the pandemic, data shows.
Children from Honduras comprised 29% of all unaccompanied minors in 2022, second only to Guatemala, which had 47%.
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