On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) confirmed that a migrant teenager passed away while in the custody of the United States. This incident marks the second reported death of a migrant in American custody within a two-month period.
The reported death of the migrant teen coincides with the expiration of the border’s Title 42 pandemic-era restrictions on May 11th.
Title 42, a public health provision that enabled the U.S. to deny asylum and immigration applications on public health grounds, is no longer in effect. Concerns among senior U.S. officials have arisen as they fear that the repeal of Title 42 may incentivize more immigrants to cross the border in search of improved living conditions.
As per the White House, HHS initiated a medical investigation on May 10th in response to the incident. The White House acknowledged being aware of the death on Friday.
The migrant who passed away has been identified by a Honduran official as Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza, a 17-year-old from Honduras. The official stated that Maradiaga Espinoza was staying at a shelter located in Safety Harbor, Florida.
In response to the incident, Honduran Foreign Minister Eduardo Reina has called for a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the teenager’s death.
Reina said, “The Government of Honduras, through the Embassy in Washington, is in contact with the family and has requested that the Office of Refugee Resettlement and the United States Department of Health and Human Services carry out an exhaustive investigation of the case to clarify this fact and, if there is any responsibility, apply the full weight of the law.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre expressed deep sadness regarding the reported death. When questioned about the incident, she refrained from sharing additional details and advised reaching out to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for further information.
A spokesperson for HHS said in a statement, “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) is deeply saddened by this tragic death on May 10, and our heart goes out to the family. A medical examiner investigation is underway. The seventeen-year-old unaccompanied child from Honduras was referred to HHS care on May 5 and placed at the Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services in Safety Harbor, Florida. As is standard practice for any situation involving the death of an unaccompanied child or a serious health outcome, ORR’s Division of Health for Unaccompanied Children and UC Program Monitoring Team are closely reviewing the case.”