The mother of a Honduran migrant teenager who died in US custody says he had epilepsy but was not seriously ill.

TEGUSIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — The mother of a 17-year-old migrant in U.S. custody who died Saturday said her son had epilepsy but showed no signs of a serious illness before traveling to the United States.

The death of Angel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza on Wednesday at a holding center in Safety Harbor, Florida, underscored concerns about a strained immigration system as the Biden administration winds down restrictions on asylum, known as Title 42.

His mother, Norma Sarai Espinoza Maradiaga, said her son had epilepsy since childhood, but his seizures were short and not serious.

“He had epilepsy, but it wasn’t a disease that threatened him because he had it since he was eight,” he said. “The longest seizure will last less than a minute. It seemed to hit him just a little bit.”

Espinoza Maradiaga told The Associated Press on Friday that Angel Eduardo left his hometown of Olancito on April 25. He crossed the US-Mexico border a few days later and was referred to the US Department of Health and Human Services on May 5. , which operates longer-term facilities for minors who cross the border without a parent.

On the same day, he spoke to his mother for the last time, he said.

“He told me he was in a shelter and not to worry because he was in the best hands,” she said. “We only talked for two minutes. I said goodbye to him and wished him the best.”

Espinoza Maradiaga said she learned of her son’s death first from one of his friends at a migrant shelter and then from a US official who confirmed the friend’s report.

“I want to find out the real cause of my son’s death,” he said.

“No one tells me anything. The anxiety is killing me,” she added. “They say that they are waiting for the results of the autopsy and they don’t give me any other answer.”

No cause of death was immediately known, nor were the circumstances of any illness or medical care.

Angel Eduardo was in eighth grade before dropping out of school to work, his mother said Saturday. Recently, he worked as a mechanic’s assistant. He had been a standout soccer player since age 7 in his hometown in northern Honduras, he said.

The teenager had hoped to reunite with his father, who left Honduras for the U.S. years ago, and earn money to keep him and his two younger siblings still in Honduras, his mother said.

He said he left with his approval and the financial support of his father in the US.

“He wanted to live the American dream since he was 10 years old, to see his father and have a better life,” she said. “His idea was to help me. He told me that when he was in the United States, he was going to change my life.”

The Department of Health and Human Services offered its condolences in a statement Friday and said a review of health records is ongoing and a medical examiner is investigating the death.

Asylum restrictions under Title 42 expired Thursday, and President Joe Biden’s administration imposed new limits on border crossers starting Friday. Tens of thousands of people tried to cross the US-Mexico border in the weeks before the expiration of Title 42, under which US officials deport many people but make exceptions for others, including unaccompanied minors.

It was the first known death of an immigrant minor under the Biden administration. At least six young people have died in US custody under the Trump administration, which has at times detained thousands of children far beyond the system’s capacity.

HHS operates long-term facilities to hold minors who cross the border without a parent until they can be placed with a sponsor. HHS facilities typically have beds, as well as school and other activities for minors, unlike Border Patrol stations and detention centers, where detainees sometimes sleep in cells on the floor.

Advocates who oppose the detention of immigrant minors say HHS facilities are ill-equipped to hold them for weeks or months, as is sometimes the case.

More than 8,600 juveniles are currently in HHS custody. That number could rise sharply in the coming weeks amid a shift in border policy, as well as steep migration trends in the Western Hemisphere and the traditional increase in crossings in the spring and summer.


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