An 8-year-old boy from Guatemala died while in custody of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol late on Christmas Eve, the agency said on Tuesday. Though CBP hasn't released his name, the child was identified by Guatemalan authorities as Felipe Alonzo-Gomez.
Felipe is the second migrant child to die while in immigration detention at the southwest border this month alone. Jakelin Ameí Rosmery Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala, also died while in custody of CBP in early December. The deaths have only intensified questions about the dire conditions in immigration detention centres across the country, including those ran by CBP, and whether federal agents are equipped to take care of the most vulnerable detainees.
According to CBP, the child and his father were detained when they crossed into the U.S. on December 18th. They were originally held at the El Paso Border Patrol Station in Texas and then transferred to the Alamogordo Border Patrol Station in New Mexico on Saturday. (Per the agency's guidelines, migrants are not supposed to be detained for more than 72 hours in CBP holding facilities before being transferred to the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.)
After being detained for six days, Felipe was "coughing and appeared to have glossy eyes," according to a CPB official. He was then taken to the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center for medical treatment, where physicians diagnosed him with a common cold and held him 90 minutes for observation. The child was prescribed amoxicillin, a common antibiotic, and ibuprofen to deal with his fever before being released.
But in the evening, Felipe grew nauseated and vomited. CBP said the father initially refused further medical treatment, but then agreed. Despite how overcrowded border facilities have become, there was no EMT officer on site to attend Felipe, which led officials to take him back to the hospital. He died there shortly before midnight on Christmas Eve. (Original reports stated that Felipe died early on Christmas morning, but CBP has since then updated its timeline.)
In the wake of Felipe's death, CBP announced it plans to review its policies on the "care and custody of children under 10 both at intake and beyond 24 hours in custody." The agency will also be "conducting secondary medical checks upon all children in CBP care," with a stronger emphasis on detainees under the age of 10.