SAFETY HARBOR, Fla. (WFLA) — A 17-year-old boy from Honduras died in U.S. immigration custody in Florida, according to U.S., Honduran, and local officials.
Enrique Reina, the Honduran Secretary of Exterior Relations and International Cooperation, tweeted on Thursday that 17-year-old Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza died in a facility in Safety Harbor.
“The Government of the President @XiomaraCastroZ laments and offers its condolences for the death of the 17-year-old Honduran minor Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza, which occurred in a shelter located in Safety Harbor, Florida, USA,” Reina wrote.
An anonymous U.S. source told the Associated Press that Ángel entered the States weeks ago.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in Florida also confirmed the death of a 17-year-old boy at the Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS) shelter, although they did not identify the minor.
According to the JFCS’ website, the organization helps international refugees with resettlement and self-sufficiency, among numerous other services.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sent out a statement saying the Office of Refuge Resettlement was reviewing the details surrounding the teen’s death.
Meanwhile, the Honduran government said it was in contact with Ángel’s family and asked the ORR and HHS to evaluate the minor’s death and “apply the full weight of the law” if necessary.
“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 @XiomaraCastroZ at various levels with the US,” Reina wrote.
This is the first known immigrant child death that occurred in federal custody under President Joe Biden, according to the Associated Press. Under President Donald Trump, six immigrant children died in U.S. custody.
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, wrote on Twitter that he was horrified by the news.
“This horrific news made me immediately think of my own grandkids,” Scott said. “I can’t imagine losing one of them. We need answers from @HHSGov and @DHSGov NOW. The loss and suffering caused by this border crisis are 100% preventable. @POTUS– please end this and SECURE THE BORDER.”
Children who cross the border into the U.S. without a parent are held in long-term facilities until they can get a sponsor. The Associated Press reported that over 8,600 children are in HHS custody, a number that is expected to spike in the coming weeks.