CBP orders medical checks after second child’s death

The boy, identified by Texas congressman Joaquin Castro as Felipe Alonzo Gomez, had been transferred to a New Mexico medical centre showing signs of sickness on Christmas Eve, the agency said yesterday. He was promptly transferred to the medical center where he was diagnosed with a common cold and a fever by hospital staff.

The Guatemalan government has been notified of the death, "and is now engaging the father and any family members in Guatemala", wrote the CBP. Officials said more information would be released shortly.

A Guatemalan girl, 7, died earlier this month after being apprehended by border agents.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it is conducting new medical checks on every child in its custody after the second reported death of a minor this month.

It remained unclear how many children are now in the custody of the CBP, though the agency processes thousands of children and their parents each month.

More than a day before she died, Jakelin, her father and 161 other Central American migrants crossed the U.S. border outside Antelope Wells, New Mexico, seeking to turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents. The form was in English, but CBP officials said agents provided a verbal translation.

The death of the second child in the agency custody reiterated the criticism of the efforts by President Trump, whose fight for the border wall led to the shutdown of the government thanks to Democrats' opposition, to curb illegal immigration.

Guatemala's Foreign Ministry said its consul in Phoenix was seeking to interview the boy's father, to whom it pledged to give all necessary consular assistance and protection. Dehydration, septic shock and fever were said to be the likely causes of her death.

Her body was repatriated on Sunday to Guatemala, and her remains were to be transported to the indigenous community of Raxruha, where she called home.

Both were taken to a hospital in New Mexico.

Democratic members of Congress and immigration advocates sharply criticized CBP's handling of the death and questioned whether border agents could have prevented it.

"While the Customs and Border Patrol notified Congress within 24 hours as mandated by law, we must ensure that we treat migrants and asylum-seekers with human dignity and provide the necessary medical care to anyone in the custody of the United States government", Castro said. The White House did not immediately comment on the boy's death Tuesday.

  • Jon Douglas