Migrants from Central America wait inside an enclosure, where they are being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally and turning themselves in to request asylum, in El Paso, Texas, March 29, 2019.
Migrants from Central America wait inside an enclosure, where they are being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally and turning themselves in to request asylum, in El Paso, Texas, March 29, 2019.

U.S. officials acknowledged Wednesday that a 10-year-old girl from El Salvador died in U.S. custody last year.

The previously unreported case is the sixth death of a child in custody in the past year.

Mark Weber, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the girl died Sept. 29, 2018, at an Omaha, Nebraska, hospital of fever and respiratory distress.

He said U.S. officials had been caring for the unnamed child since March because she was “medically fragile,” with a history of congenital heart defects.

Border arrivals increasing

HHS routinely provides care to children the government considers unaccompanied. Weber did not say if the girl has entered the U.S. alone.

The news of the girl’s death comes as U.S. border officials are detaining an increasing number of unaccompanied minors and families crossing the southern border.

That figure climbed from roughly 4,968 children in October to nearly 8,897 in April; and from 23,116 families to 58,474 families in the same period, leaving officials scrambling to provide adequate services.

On Wednesday, the Pentagon announced that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has approved a request from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to build temporary housing at six locations along the southern border to hold at least 7,500 adult migrants.

Request for more funds

The request was approved the same day acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told lawmakers an increase in funds to the agency would have prevented the recent deaths of migrant children. He said he is asking for more money in the fiscal 2020 budget as the influx of people at the border is draining resources and making it difficult for the agency to adequately respond.

“The crisis is exceeding the resources provided,” he said.