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Sick nine-year-old girl stuck in Border Patrol detention, lawyers say

A nine-year-old asylum seeker from El Salvador has been stuck in US Border Patrol detention in San Diego for ten days, and has become increasingly sick while in custody, according to her lawyers.

The young girl is suffering from severe stomach pains and has been in the custody of Customs and Border Protection (CPB) since 4 October, in violation of a longstanding regulation stating children should not be held by border agents for more than 72 hours, according to Erika Pinheiro, an attorney for the family.

The girl and her mother had been in Tijuana for months, forced to wait to present their asylum case due to the Trump administration’s controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy. After a 4 October hearing, they were taken into CBP custody, at which point they were unable to meet with their attorneys, Pinheiro told the Guardian on Monday. They haven’t been released since.

“This is something we are dealing with on a daily basis. Our clients disappear into a black hole of CBP custody,” said Pinheiro, an attorney with the group Al Otro Lado. “Every day we are seeing kids held longer than 72 hours in those facilities, and a lot of times they have medical issues.”

Max RN

BREAKING: A nine-year-old asylum-seeker from El Salvador has been held in a Border Patrol station in San Diego for ten days. She’s become sick there and her lawyers say they haven’t been able to reach her. @KPBSNEWS

October 14, 2019

Pinheiro said the daughter and mother both became sick while in CBP custody, possibly with some kind of foodborne illness, but have not received medical attention. Lawyers have filed a motion demanding the child’s release, a step Pinheiro said attorneys frequently have to take even though “the violation is so clear”. “We keep having to fight this same battle,” she added.

CBP declined to comment on the case. A spokesperson said in an email there are situations when the agency makes “exceptions” and holds minors longer than 72 hours – for example “to maintain family unity”. “CBP treats those in our custody with dignity and respect,” the statement said.


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