Medical officer reassigned after death of migrant child in border agency custody

US Customs and Border Protection has removed its chief medical officer from his position after an 8-year-old girl died in the agency’s custody last month.

The medical officer, David Tarantino Jr., was temporarily reassigned, according to a Homeland Security official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

David Tarantino Jr. has been removed as chief medical officer of US Customs and Border Protection.

Dr. Tarantino is the first CBP employee the agency has publicly acknowledged facing action in the internal investigation into the girl’s death. The little girl had been seen by medical professionals 11 times while she was in custody before being taken to a hospital where she died. Dr. Tarantino could not be reached immediately for comment.

The Washington Post previously reported Dr. Tarantino’s reassignment. The border agency has previously been criticized for its treatment of migrants in custody.

The Customs and Border Protection Bureau of Professional Responsibility is investigating the death of the little girl, Anadith Danay Reyes Álvarez, a Panamanian citizen, who had serious pre-existing health conditions before she was arrested with her family at the Texas border last month.

Over a three-day period, medical staff members examined Anadith nine times, according to preliminary results of the internal investigation. No one contacted an on-call pediatrician. A nurse rejected multiple requests from Anadith’s practitioner mother to call an ambulance or go to the hospital.

Dr. Tarantino is the first person in the agency to hold the title of chief medical officer, which he was created in 2020. He helped expand the medical care provided to people in Border Agency custody.

In a podcast interview In December, Dr Tarantino said the agency’s medical staff had grown from about 12 contracted people on the southern border a few years ago to about 1,400 by the end of last year.

In developing the CBP’s medical capabilities, Dr. Tarantino said it was important for people to understand the population in the agency’s custody.

“These are people who have been on long journeys,” he said. “They may have had underlying medical conditions before starting, and they certainly encounter medical issues and challenges along the way.” She added that medical officials can send migrants with “complex or emerging” cases to a hospital.

Customs and Border Protection declined to say where Dr. Tarantino, a former Navy medic, had been reassigned.

“We are engaging additional senior leaders to lead action across the agency,” spokeswoman Rhonda Lawson said in a statement Thursday.

The agency relies heavily on contracted medical personnel in its facilities.

Kitty Bennett contributed to the research.