The Slatest

Congolese Asylum-Seeker Dies Christmas Day in U.S. Custody at the Border

A sign reading "government property, no trespassing" is posted at the U.S. Border Patrol station on June 26, 2019 in Clint, Texas.
A sign is posted at the U.S. Border Patrol station on June 26 in Clint, Texas. Mario Tama/Getty Images

A Congolese woman seeking asylum died on Christmas Day in U.S. government custody after entering a south Texas border station, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Thursday. The agency did not disclose the identity of the 41-year-old who arrived with her husband and two children at an official port of entry the day before her death. Immigration officials say the woman had paperwork documenting a “previous medical condition” and was cleared to be detained overnight by CBP medical personnel. Early Wednesday morning, however, the woman was taken to the hospital after complaining of abdominal pain and vomiting and was diagnosed with acute kidney failure. “The subject’s health declined rapidly and she passed away at the hospital,” CBP said in a public statement.


“CBP told Congress that its officers admitted the woman and her family as part of the daily number of people allowed to enter at the Gateway to the Americas bridge,” according to the Associated Press. The local medical examiner ruled the death “not suspicious” because of the woman’s preexisting condition. Any death at the border, however, is under a microscope given the high stakes political battle underway over the nation’s immigration policy. The Trump administration’s hardline on blocking migrants from entering the country, even through previously established legal channels, has made crossing posts and detention centers a magnet for criticism over migrants’ treatment once in U.S. government custody. The CBP says at least 11 people have died this year in the agency’s custody.