FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 22, 2023
Campaign Mourns Death of Anadith, 8-year-old in CBP Jail, Demands Justice Children don’t belong in immigration jails; deserve robust care and protection
Washington – Anadith Tanay Reyes Álvarez, an 8-year-old girl who came to the United States with her Honduran parents, died last week after Customs and Border Patrol agents neglected to heed her parent’s requests for medical assistance. The #WelcomeWithDignity campaign for asylum rights joins Anadith’s parents demanding justice for Anadith, who they described as “friendly” and “loving.” Members of the campaign joined the family in mourning and expressed outrage at CBP for its role in this tragedy.
“Anadith deserves to be alive today. Border Patrol staff ignored the minimum safeguards for protecting the lives in their custody. Anadith’s parents should be preoccupied with helping their 8-year-old daughter prepare for her new life in the United States and making the journey to meet her aunt in New York. Instead, they are grieving an unspeakable tragedy and trying to raise money to take Anadith’s body to their new home with them,’ said Bilal Askaryar, Interim Campaign Manager of the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign for asylum rights. “Anadith’s death reveals several failures in our asylum and immigration systems. CBP’s own standards mandate that Border Patrol only hold individuals for 72 hours, and yet Anadith’s family was held for eight days. The campaign demands a thorough, timely, transparent, and clear investigation of Anadith’s death. It’s 2023, kids shouldn’t be dying in government custody.”
“It is atrocious that yet another family has to mourn their child because of our collective inability to fix our broken immigration system. Our hearts are with her family, and tens of thousands of other families whose pursuit of a better life ends in tragedy. The CBP needs to learn from this tragedy and take the necessary steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.” – Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director, America’s Voice.
“There will never be a world where children are safe in jails. For years, immigrants seeking safety have been detained in what many migrants have termed ‘las hieleras’– jail cells along the border known for their frigid temperatures, overcrowded spaces, and deeply inhumane conditions. That is where this little girl was held when she died. We are enraged that this administration has continued to turn its back on children and families seeking safety, rather than offer compassion and care. No parent should have to beg for their child to get basic medical attention and be forced to watch as their child’s health worsens to the point where they cannot be saved.” – Jennifer Nagda, Chief Programs Officer at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights
“We are heartbroken by the news of this tragedy,” said Katharina Obser, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “Every child’s life is valuable and important. We are outraged by reports that Border Patrol agents and medical personnel neglected to provide the urgent medical attention Anadith needed. How the government responds to those seeking protection at the U.S.-Mexico border is a choice, a choice that for too long has resulted in not nearly enough action to ensure appropriate conditions and treatment of those in its custody. We mourn this horrific loss and support Anadith’s family’s call for justice.”
“It is shocking and heartbreaking to hear about the death of any child. But to know that Anadith and her family were preparing to begin a new life together in the United States, and were instead met with cruelty that resulted in the loss of her life is absolutely devastating. We grieve with her family, and we are outraged that her final days and moments were spent inside the walls of an immigration jail,” said Paola Fuentes Gleghorn, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator – Children Services for Church World Service. “The role that CBP and our broken asylum system played in this tragedy cannot be overlooked; Anadith’s family asked repeatedly that their daughter be taken to a hospital, and were dismissed time and again. The failures in the system leave a wide margin for abuse, neglect, and in this case, a loss of life. We call for a thorough and timely investigation into Anadith’s death, as well as long overdue changes in our asylum system that protect the rights and lives of children, individuals, and families seeking safety.”
“It is tragic that the systemic problems with the U.S. Border Patrol’s inhumane holding facilities have claimed another life, this time, of 8-yr-old Anadith Tanay Reyes Álvarez. Her mother pleaded with Border Patrol agents to provide her medical care. In 2019, Congress provided Border Patrol with millions in humanitarian assistance funds to prevent the deaths of children under their custody. In violation of appropriations law, they used part of the money for a canine program and to purchase dirt bikes. Border Patrol cannot care for children, especially when there are little oversight mechanisms to hold them accountable. We mourn Anadith’s senseless death and call on the Biden administration and Congress to recommit to respecting asylum laws and to move children and their families away from detention,” said Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee’s US-Mexico Border Program, based in San Diego, CA.
“We are heartbroken by the death of Anadith Tanay Reyes Álvarez and infuriated by the reports of breathtaking negligence in the hours leading up to it,” said Laura St. John, Legal Director at the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. “It is devastating but not surprising that we are mourning yet another preventable tragedy directly resulting from our deterrence and detainment-based immigration policies. It is cruel and inhumane to jail children, and it is unfathomable that in a country like the United States children and families seeking safety are treated this way. This administration has chosen to turn its back on people seeking safety to disastrous results. We demand a full investigation into this horrific tragedy and call on the Biden administration to stop detaining children and their families. No child should ever die in government custody again, and no parent should have their pleas for help be ignored as they watch their child’s condition worsen. Our hearts go out to Anadith’s family and loved ones.”
“It is cruel that another set of parents had to beg the CBP for medical help for their child and then watch her die because of CBP negligence. We call on the Biden Administration to end this cruelty and to swiftly end the practice of long term CBP custody for immigrants,” said Ronnate Asirwatham, Director, Government Relations NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “Our hearts and our prayers go out to Anadith’s family.”
“No child should ever be held in Border Patrol custody, not for even 1 hour, let alone for 9 days. No mother’s pleas to aid their ill child should go unheard by border officials,” said Lindsay Toczylowki, Executive Director, Immigrant Defenders Law Center. “In 2022, ImmDef filed complaints after our team interviewed 2,356 unaccompanied children, many of whom were detained in CBP custody for more than the 72-hour limit, denied food, water, and medical care, and even subjected to verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. It is clear to us that this week’s tragic passing of Anadith Reyes Alvarez was an entirely preventable tragedy. ImmDef urges a thorough investigation into her death and demands that the Biden administration immediately commit to keeping all children out of CBP custody.”
“We are heartbroken to learn of another child’s tragic death in government custody. No child should be locked in a jail, no matter where they were born,” said Jennifer Anzardo Valdes, deputy director at Americans for Immigrant Justice. “There is a long and well-documented history of systemic abuse and mistreatment of children in CBP custody. In a landscape barren of rights for unaccompanied children, babies, and children coming to the United States with their parents, it is imperative that these vulnerable individuals are greeted with compassion and respect as they seek refuge and a better life in the United States. How many more children must die for CBP to effectuate change?”
“Anadith should be alive today,” said Karen Tumlin, Founder and Director of Justice Action Center. “CBP’s negligence, the administration’s inaction and red state attempts to keep migrants from safety all colluded to create this tragedy and the many that we continue to see. This country must commit to building a better system, where all people are free and safe to seek better, fuller lives.”
“America’s moms join the family in mourning the tragic death of Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez, an 8-year-old from Honduras who died in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol detention facility,” said Claudia Tristán, Immigration Campaign Director at MomsRising. “The debate over immigration has become so heated, the rhetoric so inflammatory, and the political posturing so grotesque and irresponsible that we must remind ourselves every day that at the center of this debate are desperate moms and children who want nothing more than health, safety, and a chance to contribute to a community. We can and must do better, and that starts with treating every asylum-seeker with care, compassion, dignity and respect.”
“The death of Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez while in government custody is both horrific and inexcusable,” said Kareem Shora, Executive Vice President, Programs and Policy at Human Rights First. “Anadith required medical attention and was denied adequate care multiple times by Border Patrol agents and medical personnel until she ultimately passed away. This negligence is a tragic pattern – migrants often suffer inhumane conditions and medical neglect while jailed in CBP custody. We know that this country is more than capable of protecting the health and safety of asylum seekers and migrants who reach our border. Instead of subjecting families to cruel and punitive treatment, the Biden administration must welcome and humanely process asylum seekers and move away from policies meant to punish those seeking safety. Anadith should be alive today. We mourn with her family and call for accountability.” “The International Mayan League is in deep mourning and send our condolences to Anadith’s family. This nightmare of children dying in US Government custody is far too familiar, we don’t want anyone to endure the loss of multiple children and youth like our Indigenous Maya peoples did from 2018-2019.” Said Geronimo Ramirez, (Maya Ixil) Community Organizer and Maya Ixil Interpreter with the International Mayan League. “Hearing of the death of another child in US Government custody is heartbreaking but not surprising. It is part of the US legacy of exterminating our peoples and communities. We must unite and continue demanding justice for our future generations.”
“We are heartbroken and dismayed by the news of this entirely preventable tragedy,” said Kate Jastram, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “Anadith’s family came to the United States seeking refuge, hoping that this country would offer a safe place for their child to grow up. They were instead met with cruelty, jailed in unsafe conditions where their urgent pleas for help were ignored. Anadith’s parents are now mourning the loss of their eight-year-old daughter as a direct result of border agents’ callous negligence. We echo calls for a thorough investigation into Anadith’s death and urge our government to stop detaining families and children seeking safety, who deserve to be welcomed with compassion and dignity.”
### Join the movement and sign our pledge to #WelcomeWithDignity. The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign for asylum rights is composed of more than 100 organizations committed to transforming the way the United States receives and protects people forced to flee their homes to ensure they are treated humanely and fairly. To learn more and join our campaign visit: welcomewithdignity.org