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Medical checks ordered after 2nd migrant child dies in custody

CBP announces changes after 2nd child's death
Customs and Border Protection announces changes after 2nd migrant child death 03:15

U.S. Customs and Border Protection ordered medical checks on every child in its custody Tuesday after an 8-year-old boy from Guatemala died. It was the second death of an immigrant child in the agency's care this month.

It came during an ongoing dispute over border security and with a partial government shutdown underway over President Trump's request for border wall funding.

The boy, identified by Congressman Joaquin Castro, D-Texas and Guatemalan authorities as Felipe Gómez Alonzo, had been in CBP's custody with his father, Agustin Gomez, since December 18. CBP said in a statement late Tuesday that they entered the U.S. three miles west of a legal entry point -- the Paso del Norte bridge connecting El Paso and Juarez, Mexico.

Felipe Gómez Alonzo

CBP said an agent first noticed the boy had a cough and "glossy eyes" at about 9 a.m. Monday. He was eventually hospitalized twice and died just before midnight, the agency said. 

A CBP spokesman could not immediately answer how many children are currently in the agency's custody. But with border crossings surging, the agency processes thousands of children -- both alone and with their parents -- every month.  

CBP said it needs the help of other government agencies to provide health care. The agency "is considering options for surge medical assistance" from the Coast Guard and may request help from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Immigration advocates and human rights groups sharply criticized CBP in the wake of Felipe's death.

"The administration's policy of turning people away from legal ports of entry, otherwise known as metering, is putting families and children in great danger," said Castro, chairman-elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said the Trump administration's "policies of cruelty toward migrants and asylum-seekers at the border must cease immediately before any more children are harmed."

CBP promised "an independent and thorough review of the circumstances," and the Guatemalan foreign ministry called for an investigation "in accordance with due process." CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan called the child's death a "tragic loss." 

Earlier this week, the body of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal, who died earlier this month, was returned to her village in Guatemala for burial

Jakelin Caal
Jakelin Caal

Democratic members of Congress and immigration advocates sharply criticized CBP's handling of her death and questioned whether border agents could have prevented it by spotting symptoms of distress or calling for an evacuation by air ambulance sooner.

CBP has said that it took several hours to transport Jakelin and her father from a remote Border Patrol facility to a larger station, where her temperature was measured at 105.7 degrees. Emergency medical technicians had to revive her twice. She was ultimately flown to an El Paso hospital, where she died the next day.

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Jakelin's death was "a very sad example of the dangers of this journey." But, she added, "This family chose to cross illegally."

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