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The parents of an 8-year-old who died in Border Patrol custody call for 'justice'

“My daughter is a human being, they had to take care of her,” said Mabel Alvarez, a migrant from Honduras and the mother of Anadith Tanay Reyes Álvarez.

The parents of an 8-year-old girl who died while in Border Patrol custody in Texas this week said in an emotional interview that they want “justice” for their daughter and that authorities didn’t take their complaints about her health seriously until it was too late. 

Anadith Tanay Reyes Álvarez, who was born in Panama to Honduran parents, came to the U.S. with her parents and two siblings earlier this month.

She died Wednesday after suffering a “medical emergency” while she and her family were in custody in Harlingen, Customs and Border Protection said in a statement. 

Anadith Reyes.
Anadith Reyes.Courtesy Lorna Santos

The little girl had congenital heart disease and sickle cell anemia, her family said.

“They could have done something for my daughter if they had called the ambulance sooner,” Mabel Álvarez, Anadith’s mother, told Noticias Telemundo from a shelter for migrants in McAllen, Texas, on Friday. “My daughter would still be alive.”

She described her daughter as a “friendly, loving” girl who always thought of others, and one day hoped to help children with her same health conditions.

CBP said in a statement Wednesday that emergency medical services were called to the station and transported the girl to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The agency said the Office of Professional Responsibility would conduct an investigation, as is standard in the case of a death.

CBP said it has contacted the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and the Harlingen Police Department about the incident.

Álvarez and Rossel Reyes, the girl’s father, said they gave authorities documents about the girl’s medical condition while they were in immigration custody. 

They said that a doctor examined Anadith and that she tested positive for the flu. Álvarez said she turned to authorities and medical personnel at the station multiple times to explain that her daughter was complaining of pain and shortness of breath and her symptoms were getting worse.

"They never listened to me," she said.

Reyes said his daughter was "in a lot of pain, a lot of pain."

“I begged them to call an ambulance,” Álvarez said, adding that authorities told her the girl’s condition wasn’t serious enough to warrant calling an ambulance. 

Álvarez said her daughter begged authorities as well, telling them “she could not breathe from her nose or mouth.”

Álvarez said that eventually her daughter lost consciousness and “died in my arms.”

She said authorities took the girl from her arms and put her on the floor, trying to revive her.

“My daughter died there in the station,” she said.

Álvarez said she feels authorities did not do enough to help her little girl.

“My daughter is a human being, they had to take care of her,” she said.

CBP told NBC News an open investigation is being conducted into the girl's death and referred to its original statement when asked about the parents’ allegations.

A 17-year-old unaccompanied migrant from Honduras died last week at a facility run by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement in Florida.

The Honduran government identified him as Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza and called for a full investigation and a criminal investigation if any wrongdoing is found.