The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed last week that a 10-year-old girl from El Salvador died in U.S. custody last fall. The child’s death in September 2018 had not been previously reported. A spokesman for HHS said in a statement to CBS News that the girl, Darlyn Valle, had a congenital heart disease and entered custody already in a “medically fragile” state. She had a medical procedure that left her in a coma. Doctors transferred her to be closer to family, and she died at Children’s Hospital of Omaha, Neb., from fever and respiratory distress.
U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, last week accused the federal government of covering up the death and said he planned to demand more information from HHS. Officials must notify local child welfare authorities of deaths but are not required to announce them to the public.
Valle’s death is believed to be the first of a migrant child in federal custody since 2010. Five additional migrant children or teens have died in U.S. custody or soon after their release to a hospital since September. The latest was 16-year-old Carlos Hernandez Vásquez, who died May 20 at a Border Patrol station in Texas. Some Democrats in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus sent a letter Friday to HHS and the Department of Homeland Security requesting more information about Valle’s death and asking the departments to notify Congress in the future when a child dies in its custody. —C.C.