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Mexican man dies at Tucson hospital while in Border Patrol custody

A 49-year-old man died in a Tucson-area hospital Monday morning while in custody of U.S. Border Patrol agents, authorities announced Tuesday. 

The man, identified only as a Mexican, detained by Border Patrol agents on Sunday around 1 p.m. south of Casa Grande, said Rob Daniels, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol's parent agency. 

Around 9 a.m., Monday morning, the man died, Daniels said. 

During "processing, agents determined the man needed medical attention and he was transported to a hospital in Tucson. There medical officials "determined that the man had a pre-existing heart condition," Daniels said. 

"Our condolences are with his family," Daniels said. 

At least 11 people have died in CBP custody in 2019, including a 52-year-old Nicaraguan man, who died in the Tucson Sector on July 5. The man was part of a group of 36 asylum seekers who turned themselves over to Border Patrol agents west of Sasabe, Ariz, the agency said. 

Until December, CBP did not have a formal policy to announce in-custody deaths, however that changed following revelations by the Washington Post that a seven-year-old girl had died while in Border Patrol custody. 

Last year, Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin and her father, Nery Gilberto Caal, 29, turned themselves into Border Patrol after they crossed into the United States with 161 other people near Forward Operating Base Bounds, in the boot heel of New Mexico near the Antelope Wells Port of Entry, a remote and lonely stretch of terrain south of Interstate 10. 

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Officials with the Department of Homeland Security, the umbrella department for CBP and its component Border Patrol said following that death that they would begin disclosing in-custody deaths. 

Under the guidelines, immediately following the death of a person in custody, CBP will tell lawmakers about the incident with 24 hours, and issue media statements an hour after that. 

This process will alert more than a half-dozen offices within CBP, including the commissioner of CBP and the Office of Professional Responsibility. The alert will also include the Inspector General's office, and the relevant consulate office through the State Department.

"To secure and maintain the public trust, CBP’s intent is to be accessible and transparent by providing appropriate information to the Congress and the public regarding any death occurring in custody," the agency said.

This policy echoes the one used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on detainees who die in custody at either an ICE facility or one run by a private-prison under an ICE contract. 

Even as DHS officials scrambled to instill this policy, at least seven children died while in custody of CBP or just after they were released this year, leading to questions by lawmakers and watchdog agencies about the treatment of detainees while in the agency's custody. 

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

A Border Patrol truck patrols near Naco, Arizona.


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