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New Guidelines Require Border Patrol to Alert Congress of Deaths Within 24 Hours

U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Tuesday introduced new guidelines for reporting the deaths of people in its custody. The guidelines come following widespread criticism that CBP did not promptly disclose the death of a 7-year-old girl, who died from dehydration and shock, while in its custody.

The Washington Post first reported on the death of Jakelin Caal Maquin, a Guatemalan girl who crossed the border with her father without documentation. Maquin and her father were taken into CBP custody in New Mexico at 10 p.m. on Dec. 6. Her death on Dec. 8 was not reported by the media outlet until days later on Dec. 13.

Border Patrol has been criticized for a lack of transparency and oversight. Between 2010 and September 2018, the Southern Border Communities Coalition found that at least 81 died “as the result of an encounter with U.S. border agents.”

New guidelines published to the CBP website state that the agency must inform U.S. lawmakers of a death in CBP custody within 24 hours, and must issue statements to the media an hour after that. The statements will also be posted to CBP.gov.

CBP will also submit annual reports to the attorney general detailing the deaths of people who are either in its custody, under arrest, or in the process of being arrested.