A child is vaguely seen through a window, with the focus on a reflection of an American flag flying outside.

Our Immigration System Is Beyond Broken: 8-Year-Old Child Dies in Border Patrol Custody

There will not be peace without justice, whether you're a citizen or not.

Content warning: death of a child, discussions of police/border patrol brutality

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The U.S. immigration system has been beyond broken for decades and unfortunately, it has a human cost. We are reminded of that fact with the death of an 8-year girl from Panama. Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez died in Border Patrol custody and was reportedly refused medical care even after she had a seizure. When she was finally brought to the hospital, it was too late. She passed within the hour.

It’s a terrible tragedy, and one that is common and preventable. The family was legally supposed to only be held for 72 hours but were on their ninth day of incarceration when Alvarez passed.

They killed my daughter, because she was nearly a day and a half without being able to breathe,” the girl’s mother, Mabel Alvarez Benedicks on a call with the Associated Press. “She cried and begged for her life and they ignored her. They didn’t do anything for her.”

Legally, the Border Patrol agents should have given Alvarez medical treatment from the moment she fell ill. Instead, they reportedly ignored her and her family’s cries for help. 

This sadly occurred the week after 17-year-old Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza died in custody, and in the same week that an Arizona man was killed by Border Patrol after reporting migrants on his property.

Even worse is that the agents involved in all of these events will (likely) see no repercussions for their actions. NPR has previously written about how a lot of the same protections police have against lawsuits are shared by border patrol agents. They are able to act with complete impunity, with few to no consequences.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a case of “bad apples,” it’s a failure with how the border patrol is set up from the start. If a system was built on a bad foundation where its agents cannot be held accountable, then it won’t be fixed from the inside out by patching up holes or painting over bloodstains. It has to be scrapped and rebuilt with solid roots of empathy, compassion, and accountability.

From the state of immigration legislation right now, it doesn’t look like it will be fixed anytime soon. But that makes it all the more important to pay attention to local and national legislation regarding migrants, immigrants, and refugees. Trump no longer being in office doesn’t mean the problems plaguing immigrants went away. In a lot of ways, things got worse when the news stopped paying attention to the people.

If you want to help in other ways, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services of Texas, the Young Center, the Kids in Need of Defense, and the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project all work to protect migrants and kids, so look into volunteering with or donating to them especially.

(featured image: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


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Kimberly Terasaki
Kimberly Terasaki is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She has been writing articles for them since 2018, going on 5 years of working with this amazing team. Her interests include Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Horror, intersectional feminism, and fanfiction; some are interests she has held for decades, while others are more recent hobbies. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan.