Thu, Dec 27, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Second migrant child dies in US hands

‘THOROUGH REVIEW’:CBP said it is to conduct medical checks and review its policies, while collaborating with other government agencies to offer medical support


Relatives and friends carry the coffin of seven-year-old Jakelin Caal, who died in a Texas hospital two days after being taken into custody by US Customs and Border Protection agents, to the cemetery in her home village of Raxruha in Alta Verapaz Department, Guatemala, on Tuesday.

Photo: AFP

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Tuesday announced it would conduct medical checks on all children in its custody following the death of an eight-year-old Guatemalan migrant — the second child fatality in US detention this month.

The boy, identified by Guatemalan authorities as Felipe Gomez Alonzo, had been in CBP’s custody with his father, Agustin Gomez, since Tuesday last week.

He on Monday had been transferred to a New Mexico medical center showing signs of sickness, the agency said.

Staff diagnosed him with a cold, but later discovered a fever. He was later released, with prescriptions for ibuprofen and the antibiotic amoxicillin.

The child was later transferred back to the hospital after showing signs of nausea and vomiting, and died on Monday just before midnight.

CBP said it had not established the cause of death, but would “ensure an independent and thorough review of the circumstances.”

The agency was “conducting secondary medical checks upon all children in CBP care and custody” and “reviewing its policies with particular focus upon care and custody of children under 10,” CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said.

The agency was considering seeking medical support from other agencies, among them the US Coast Guard and the US Department of Defense, he added.

“CBP is coordinating with the [US] Centers for Disease Control on the numbers of children in custody as well,” he said.

Guatemala called on US authorities to conduct a “clear” investigation of the death, adding that “medical reports have been requested ... to clarify the cause of death of the child.”

CBP typically detains immigrants for no more than a few days when they cross the border before either releasing them or turning them over to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for longer-term detention.

Agency guidelines say that immigrants generally should not be detained for more than 72 hours in CBP holding facilities, which are usually smaller and have fewer services than ICE detention centers.

The boy’s death came on the same day that Jakelin Caal, a Guatemalan girl who died in US custody under similar circumstances earlier this month, was buried.

Her body was repatriated on Sunday and after a long journey reached San Antonio Secortez, the remote village where her family — members of the indigenous Q’eqchi’ Maya people — live without electricity and other basic services.

“This girl left home happy searching for a dream, but unfortunately died on the way,” community leader Alberto Pop told reporters in the cemetery.

“You hear that in the United States they pay well, not like the companies here in Guatemala — that’s why people leave,” said Pop, whose 22-year-old son Joaquin left last month. “I don’t know if he is alive or dead.”

Jakelin Caal’s death on Dec. 8 reignited debate in the US over immigration policy and the treatment of migrants.

“Heartbroken to hear of a second child’s death in CBP custody,” US Representative Nydia Velazquez said on Twitter. “We must demand accountability, find answers and put an end to this Administration’s hateful, dangerous anti-immigrant policies.”

Additional reporting by AP

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