Updated at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday
Officials with Roma police said they received a call from law enforcement counterparts in Mexico at noon on Feb. 2, saying someone had called their dispatch center in Nuevo Laredo about a man who was lying just below the bridge in Roma.
After officers responded, they determined the man needed medical assistance and called out for the Roma Fire Department and emergency medical service from Starr County, Assistant Roma Police Chief Francisco Garcia said Tuesday.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Roma Fire Chief Alfredo Garza was unavailable for comment related to inquiries regarding the man’s medical condition upon arrival of his location.
CBP officials said on Monday that the man, who was found near the Roma port of entry, “requested medical attention,” before he was transferred to a Mission hospital.
The following day, Feb. 3, after a welfare check, the man was once again transferred to a hospital — this time in McAllen. The man was then diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and congestive heart failure, CBP officials said.
The man died at McAllen Medical Center Monday morning, according to CBP’s news release.
Officials with the Mexican consulate in McAllen said Tuesday they could not release any information regarding the 45-year-old Mexican national who died at a McAllen hospital Monday morning due to privacy laws.
The consulate confirmed it was notified of the man’s death and is processing information for the case, but this is all it is releasing in terms of information.
The inquiry was made after U.S. Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection officials referred questions about the man’s identity to the consulate.
A 45-year-old Mexican national in the custody of U.S. Border Patrol died Monday morning at a McAllen hospital, according to a statement on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.
U.S. Border Patrol agents took custody of the man Feb. 2 after officers with the Roma Police Department “encountered” him near the Roma port of entry, during which he “requested medical attention,” the release stated. CBP officials did not identify the man Monday.
At that point he was transferred to Mission Regional Medical Center in Mission, where he was subsequently cleared to go to the Border Patrol station in Rio Grande City.
But following a welfare check the next day, Feb. 3, the man again requested medical attention and was transported to McAllen Medical Center, where shortly thereafter he was “initially diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and congestive heart failure,” according to CBP.
“The individual remained at the McAllen Medical Center from Feb. 3 until passing today, shortly before 9 a.m.,” the release on Monday read.
Andrew Meehan, CBP assistant commissioner for public affairs, responded to the news in a prepared statement.
“This loss of life is tragic,” Meehan said in the statement. “Our condolences go out to the family and loved ones. CBP remains committed to ensuring the safe and humane treatment of those within the care of our custody.”
The release went on to state that the man’s official cause of death was not known, and that an official review was initiated by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which is consistent with CBP policy.
The release also stated that several entities have been made aware of the death, including the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General, as well as the Mexican government.
“CBP has also notified members of Congress consistent with CBP’s Interim Procedures on Notification of a Death in Custody,” the release stated.
CBP indicated it will work to “ensure an independent and thorough review of the circumstances,” and will release more details as “available and appropriate.”
This is the third death of an immigrant while in the custody of U.S. Border Patrol since December when two minor children from Guatemala, ages 8 and 7, died after crossing into the U.S.
On Dec. 14, CBP Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan issued a statement warning about the dangers of traveling long distances following the death of Jakelin Caal Maquin, who died Dec. 8 — two days after the 7-year-old girl and her father were apprehended.
“We cannot stress enough the dangers posed by traveling long distances, in crowded transportation, or in the natural elements through remote desert areas without food, water and other supplies,” McAleenan said in the release. “No one should risk injury, or even death, by crossing our border unlawfully. This is why I asked Congress … to change our laws so that the United States is not incentivizing families to take this dangerous path.
“Border Patrol agents save thousands of people every year who are overcome by the elements, including people found suffering from dehydration, heat stroke, hypothermia, drowning in the river, injuries, and left for dead by these smugglers in some of the most remote areas of our border as they enter the country illegally. Our agents have world-class rescue and medical training, and are committed to saving those put in distress by callous smugglers.”
Less than 10 days later a second child, also from Guatemala, died of unknown causes.
After that death, CBP announced it was making changes to how it handled minor children in their custody.