US Customs and Border Patrol has ordered changes in protocols after an eight year-old Guatemalan boy died on Christmas Eve, the AP reports. His death followed that of seven year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin on December 8. Both children died while in the custody of CBP.
Felipe Gómez Alonzo had been in CBP custody since December 18, with his father, Agustin Gomez. The DHS inspector general has begun an investigation into his death. The Guatemalan Foreign Ministry has asked for Felipe’s medical records and for an investigation. The Foreign Ministry has pledged assistance to Agustin and will repatriate the child’s remains.
Kevin McAleenan, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, told “CBS This Morning” that the deaths are an “extraordinarily rare occurrence”. “It’s been more than a decade since we’ve had a child pass away anywhere in a CBP process, so this is just devastating for us,” McAleenan said. He is asking for help from Congress and says that “we need a different approach” to manage the children who end up in CBP custody.
“We need help from Congress. We need to budget for medical care and mental health care for children in our facilities and I’m committed to improving our conditions, even as we work on the broader problems — border security, and of course solving the issues in our legal framework that are inviting these families and children to make this dangerous journey,” McAleenan said.CBS This Morning
Commissioner McAleenan pointed out to “CBS This Morning” that the Border Patrol stations were constructed decades ago with the intent of detaining single males. He said, “What we’re seeing is more children than ever before coming into our custody. At this pace in December we’ll have almost 25,000 children, most of the them accompanied by parents who have crossed our border and arriving in custody. That’s very different than we’ve seen before.”
On Wednesday, McAleenan announced protocol changes in order to safeguard the health of migrant children, CNN reports. CBP is reviewing its policies regarding children in its care, especially those 10 and under.
In addition to completing secondary medical checks on all children in CBP custody, with a special focus on children under 10 years old, CBP is looking at upping their capability of expediting transportation to Family Residential Facilities and at supervised release options. Border Patrol is also seeking “surge medical assistance” from the Coast Guard, and other Federal agencies such as the Defense Department, HUD, and Center for Disease Control.
McAleenan explained to “CBS This Morning” that CBP agents take dozens of ill children to the hospital every day and that there is a staff of 1,500 emergency medical technicians providing medical care.
CBP has released a timeline of the events preceding Felipe’s death, per the AP.
He and his father were taken into CBP custody on December 18. Agency guidelines say that immigrants shouldn’t be held for more than 72 hours before being transferred to one of ICE’s long term holding facilities or released. The agency did not explain why Felipe and his father were held for days by CBP.
Around 9 am on December 24, Felipe was observed to be coughing. He was taken to the hospital midday, diagnosed with a cold, and sent back to the holding facility with antibiotics and ibuprofen. Agents helped clean up the boy’s vomit around 7 pm and the father declined further medical care then. At 9 pm, Felipe was lethargic and taken back to the hospital because there was no EMT on duty. He lost consciousness in the ambulance and died at the hospital at 11:49 pm, per CBS News.
The boy’s death comes during a government shutdown over funding for President Trump’s border wall. CBP agents remain on duty during the shutdown.