Migrant child has died in US custody, White House confirms

A Honduran official identified the teen as Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza.

May 12, 2023, 5:50 PM

A migrant child died in U.S. custody this week, officials confirmed Friday.

According to Honduras' Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduardo Enrique Reina, 17-year-old Honduran minor Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoz died in a shelter located in Safety Harbor, Florida.

"The Government of Honduras, through the Embassy in Washington, is in contact with the family and has requested that [Office of Refugee Resettlement] and [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," Reina said in a social media post.

The White House said Friday it was aware of the death, and confirmed the Department of Health and Human Services has opened a medical investigation on May 10.

"It is sad news. It is deeply saddening to hear. And we are certainly aware of the tragic loss," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during the daily briefing.

Jean-Pierre declined to share any additional information, referring questions to the HHS.

"The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is deeply saddened by this tragic death on May 10 and our heart goes out to the family. A medical examiner investigation is underway," an HHS spokesperson said in a statement.

PHOTO: In this July 21, 2007, file photo, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services building is shown in Washington, D.C.
In this July 21, 2007, file photo, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services building is shown in Washington, D.C.
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images,

"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," the statement said. "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."

The Department of Homeland Security declined to comment.

News of the child migrant's death comes amid concerns of a looming surge at the border now that Title 42 pandemic-era restrictions have expired.

"This terrible fact underscores the importance of working together on the bilateral migration agenda on the situation of unaccompanied minors, to find solutions, an issue that has been addressed by the President [Xiomara Castro] at various levels with the US," Reina said.

On Friday afternoon, HHS and DHS released the numbers of children in U.S. custody.

As of May 11, a release said, there were 299 unaccompanied children apprehended and placed into CBP custody, but the agencies said that number does not include children from Mexico, most of whom will be repatriated and will not remain in CBP custody.

In addition, agency data showed 8,672 children in HHS custody.

ABC News' Anne Flaherty and Luke Barr contributed to this report.

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