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7-year-old Guatemalan girl died in US Customs and Border Protection custody

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A US Customs and Border Protection agent cruises in his vehicle inside the Border Infrastructure System. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

A 7-year-old Guatemalan girl has died in US Customs and Border Protection custody, a source with the agency told CNN late Thursday.

The source referred questions about all other details on the matter to local authorities.

The Washington Post first reported Thursday that the girl died of dehydration and septic shock last week in El Paso, Texas after she was taken into custody by Border Patrol after crossing illegally with her father into the United States.

“Our sincerest condolences go out to the family of the child,” CBP spokesman Andrew Meehan said in a statement to the Post.

“Border Patrol agents took every possible step to save the child’s life under the most trying of circumstances. As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child.”

The girl and her father were part of a large group of migrants who approached Border Patrol agents in a remote area of the New Mexico desert last Thursday, the newspaper reported, citing CBP records.

After the child began having seizures hours after she was taken into custody, she was airlifted to the Providence Children’s Hospital in El Paso, where she died less than 24 hours later, CBP told the Post.

“Due to patient confidentiality, the hospital is unable to provide any patient information and is referring any inquiries regarding this patient to CBP,” said Monique Poessiger, a hospital spokeswoman.

CNN has reached out to local CBP authorities.

Congressman Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said late Thursday in a statement he was “devastated by reports that a seven-year-old girl who was taken into Customs and Border Patrol custody died of dehydration and exhaustion. I’ll be asking for a full investigation by the Inspector General and Congress into the conditions and circumstances that led to her death.”

“We can do better as a nation,” said Castro, a member of the House Foreign Affairs and House Intelligence Committees.

“This is a humanitarian crisis and we have a moral obligation to ensure these vulnerable families can safely seek asylum, which is legal under immigration and international law at our borders,” Castro’s statement said.

Cynthia Pompa, advocacy manager for the ACLU Border Rights Center, in a statement called for “a rigorous investigation into how this tragedy happened and serious reforms to prevent future deaths.”

“This tragedy represents the worst possible outcome when people, including children, are held in inhumane conditions,” the statement said. “Lack of accountability, and a culture of cruelty within CBP have exacerbated policies that lead to migrant deaths. In 2017, migrant deaths increased even as the number of border crossings dramatically decreased.”

Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas on Thursday called for transparency in the investigation of the child’s death.

“I am deeply saddened by this girl’s death. There must be a complete investigation and the results shared with Congress and the public,” he tweeted.

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