HOUSTON - A 41-year-old Congolese asylum-seeker died Wednesday in U.S. government custody shortly after she entered a border station in South Texas, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Thursday.
CBP says the woman, whom the agency did not identify, had arrived at an official port of entry in Laredo, Texas, early Tuesday afternoon. The woman came with paperwork that documented a “previous medical condition,” CBP said. The agency’s medical personnel cleared her to be detained overnight.
The agency’s statement says the woman told CBP officers early Wednesday that “she was suffering from abdominal pain and had vomited.” The agency says it contacted emergency personnel immediately and had her taken to a local hospital.
According to information CBP gave members of Congress, the woman was diagnosed at the hospital with acute kidney failure. A congressional aide who spoke on condition of anonymity provided details to The Associated Press. CBP did not identify her illness in its public statement.
“The subject’s health declined rapidly and she passed away at the hospital,” CBP’s public statement said.
She was traveling with her husband and two children, who were subsequently released.
Agents at official crossings between the U.S. and Mexico have stopped tens of thousands of asylum-seekers from entering the country under policies enacted by President Donald Trump’s administration, limiting crossings at many ports to just a few people daily and forcing others to wait in Mexico. CBP told Congress that its officers admitted the woman and her family as part of the daily number of people allowed to enter at the Gateway to the Americas bridge.
The agency says the Webb County medical examiner “has determined that the death is not suspicious, as the individual had a preexisting medical condition.”
CBP declined to answer follow-up questions about the case. The medical examiner’s office and the embassy for the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Washington, D.C., did not return messages Thursday.
At least 11 people died this year after entering CBP’s custody, according to statements posted on the agency’s website. Those people include a 16-year-old teenager from Guatemala who died of the flu inside a Border Patrol cell in Weslaco, Texas, in May. Surveillance video later showed Hernandez had been lying unresponsive for several hours despite the agency’s claims that it did regular checks on him.
The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general last week cleared CBP of any wrongdoing in the deaths of two children last December, 7-year-old Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin and 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo. Both cases raised questions about whether the children received medical care quickly enough. Jakelin was not transported from a remote border outpost to a larger Border Patrol station for seven hours. Felipe was taken to a hospital in New Mexico with a fever, released, then taken with his father to a holding facility at a highway checkpoint. Several hours later, after agents had helped clean up his vomit, he was taken back to a hospital where he soon died.