Guatemalan boy (8) dies after being detained by US border agents

Agency to conduct checks on all child migrants in its care after second death in a month

Eight-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo died in US custody after trekking to the US-Mexico border with his father from Guatemala. Video: Reuters

 

An eight-year-old boy from Guatemala died in US government custody in New Mexico early on Christmas Day, after being detained by border agents, US immigration authorities have said.

A Texas congressman named the child as Felipe Alonzo-Gomez.

It marked the second death of an immigrant child while being detained after crossing the US-Mexico border this month.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a news release the boy died shortly after midnight.

The CBP said the boy showed “signs of potential illness” while in its custody on Monday and was taken with his father to a hospital in Alamogordo, New Mexico, where he was diagnosed with a cold and a fever.

The boy was prescribed amoxicillin and Ibuprofen and released on Monday afternoon after being held for 90 minutes for observation, the agency said.

The boy was returned to the hospital on Monday evening with nausea and vomiting and died there a few hours later, the CBP said.

The death came during an ongoing dispute over border security and with a partial government shutdown under way over president Donald Trump’s request for border wall funding.

The White House referred questions on the issue to the US department of homeland security, CBP’s parent agency.

Following the death, the CBP said it was developing several policy changes.

It will conduct secondary medical checks on all children in its custody, with a focus on those under 10, the agency said in a release. The agency will also work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to improve custody options, such as better transportation to Family Residential Centres and supervised release, and working with non-governmental agencies for housing.

CBP officers and the Border Patrol remain operational despite the shutdown.

The agency said the cause of the boy’s death has not been determined and that it had notified the department of homeland security’s inspector general and the Guatemalan government.

The hospital, the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Centre, declined to comment, citing privacy regulations.

‘Tragic loss’

“This is a tragic loss. On behalf of US Customs and Border Protection, our deepest sympathies go out to the family,” CBP commissioner Kevin K McAleenan said in a press release.

The agency promised “an independent and thorough review of the circumstances”.

It has not yet said when or where the father and son entered the US or for how long they were detained, saying only in its statement that the boy had been “previously apprehended” by its agents.

The CBP typically detains immigrants when they cross the border for short periods of time before releasing them or turning them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Alamogordo is about 129km from the US-Mexico border at El Paso, Texas.

A seven-year-old Guatemalan girl died earlier this month after being apprehended by border agents, also in New Mexico.

The body of the girl, Jakelin Caal, was returned to her family’s remote village on Monday for burial on Tuesday.

Large numbers of Guatemalan families have been arriving in recent weeks in New Mexico, often in remote and dangerous parts of the desert.

Jakelin and her father were with 161 other people when they were apprehended in Antelope Wells, about 370km southwest of Alamogordo.

CBP announced new notification procedures in response to Jakelin’s death, which was not revealed until several days later. – Agencies