9-year-old girl drowns trying to cross Rio Grande into US

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Authorities on Friday confirmed that a 9-year-old girl died in an apparent drowning last week after attempting to cross over the Rio Grande into the United States. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) initially reported the death in a press release Thursday, explaining that first responders attempted to give lifesaving aid to the girl, her mother and 3-year-old brother when the three were found unconscious on the Mexico side of the Rio Grande. 

While the mother and the boy regained consciousness, CBP said the girl had to be taken to Eagle Pass Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services in Texas and was later “pronounced deceased by medical professionals.” 

While the Thursday statement did not list a specific cause of death, Lt. Jason Mares of the Eagle Pass Fire Department told NBC News on Friday that it “was considered a drowning.” 

“We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of this small child,” Del Rio Sector Chief Patrol Agent Austin L. Skero II said in a statement along with CBP’s press release. 

“During these hard times our agents remain resilient, and I am extremely proud of their efforts to preserve human life,” he added. 

According to CBP, the mother that was rescued was Guatemalan, though her children were both citizens of Mexico. 

The report comes as the Biden administration faces increased pressure to rapidly respond to the surge in migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, many of them being unaccompanied minors. 

The CBP said in its Thursday statement that since early October, Del Rio Sector Border Patrol agents alone have rescued more than 500 migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. 

President Biden has scrambled to secure enough facilities to keep up with the number of minors traveling over the border, and on Tuesday, the Department of Health and Human Services’s (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) announced that it was opening a second facility to house migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas. 

Biden on Thursday in his first press conference since becoming president also said that he is coordinating with the Defense Department to open up military facilities, including at Fort Bliss, where he said 5,000 beds would become available this week to temporarily hold migrant children. 

Biden said Thursday that no child should be kept in CBP facilities for more than the legally allowed 72 hours, though thousands have already been held longer as the administration works to connect them with a sponsor, or put them under HHS care so they have access to educational, health and legal services.

The administration has faced bipartisan criticism for housing children in CBP facilities, though the White House has defended the move as a way to maintain health and safety guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Tags biden administration Illegal immigration to the United States immigrant children Joe Biden Mexico–United States border migrant surge NBC News Rio Grande southern border U.S. Customs and Border Protection Unaccompanied minors White House

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