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Mexican woman dies at Tucson hospital while in Border Patrol custody

33-year-old woman was found by sheriff's deputies two weeks earlier

A 33-year-old Mexican woman died in a Tucson hospital Saturday morning after she was found unconscious at an intersection near Tubac, Ariz., two weeks ago, authorities announced Monday. 

The woman was in Border Patrol custody at the hospital when she died Saturday morning at 11:44 a.m., said Rob Daniels, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol's parent agency. 

Daniels said in an email that the agency "is saddened to report that the individual succumbed to her injuries while still in the hospital," he said. 

The woman, identified only by her age and nationality was found by a Santa Cruz County Sheriff's deputy near Tubac, south of Tucson, on Oct. 13, Daniels said. 

The deputy was responding to a 911 call reported that a woman was passed out at an intersection, said Meredith Mingledorff, a spokeswoman for CBP. "She was taken to a Tucson hospital where she was found to have injuries consistent with severe dehydration," she said. 

Emergency medical services took her to a hospital where "she received treatment while in U.S. Border Patrol custody," Daniel said.  

She is the second immigrant to die while at a hospital while still in Border Patrol custody. Just a week ago, on Monday, Oct. 21, a 49-year-old Mexican man died at a Tucson-area hospital after he was detained near Casa Grande, Arizona. The man was suffering from a "pre-existing heart condition," Daniels said. 

At least 12 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. 

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 agent in the desert near Arivaca, Ariz.