US Announces Steps to Prevent More Immigrant Child Deaths
26 December 2018, 17:48
Family and friends are mourning the loss of a second Guatemalan child who died while in the custody of U.S. border patrol agents, VOA news reports.
Eight-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo passed away just after midnight Christmas Day, the same day a 7-year-old girl was laid to rest in her impoverished Guatemalan village.
The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said while the boy and his father, Agustin Gomez, were in its custody Monday, agents noticed the child was showing signs of “potential illness.”
Doctors at a hospital in Alamogordo, New Mexico diagnosed Felipe with a cold and fever and released him with prescription medications.
The child became nauseous and started vomiting Monday night, prompting his return to the hospital where he died shortly after midnight.
The cause of the child’s death is unknown but Customs and Border Patrol promises an “independent and thorough review.” It has also notified Homeland Security and the Guatemalan government, which has requested an investigation.
Following the recent deaths, CBP announced a series of moves Tuesday night.
The agency is now conducting follow-up medical checks on all children in its custody with emphasis on children under the age of 10.
CBP is also collaborating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide more transportation to residential centers and to address capacity issues in the El Paso, Texas area.
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Meanwhile, in the tiny Guatemalan village of San Antonio Secortez, a funeral was held for Jakelin Caal.
Jakelin died December 8 while also in the custody of CBP. Jakelin and her father, Nery Caal, crossed into the U.S. as part of one of the caravans of Central American migrants.
It is still unclear exactly how Jakelin became ill.
She was apparently well when agents arrested her and her father along with other migrants when they crossed the U.S. border into New Mexico on December 6.
She became sick on the bus ride to a border patrol station and arrived with a 41-degree Celsius fever.
Emergency medical teams flew her to a hospital in El Paso, Texas, where she died two days later. Her brain was swollen and her liver had failed.
U.S. agents say the child likely had little to eat and drink before arriving at the U.S. border.
Critics of U.S. immigration policy point to the child deaths as examples of the harsh treatment many migrants can expect when they cross the U.S. borders.
“The Trump administration is deliberately and unlawfully turning asylum-seekers away from points of entry and delaying the processing of individuals seeking protection to an unbearable crawl, forcing families to take desperate measures to seek safety,” the human rights group Amnesty International said Tuesday.
A CBP spokesman could not immediately answer how many children are in the agency’s custody. But the agency processes thousands of children, with or without their parents, every month.
President Donald Trump has said all immigrants are welcome to the U.S. but must come to the country legally.