The Department of Homeland Security said it has completed new medical screenings of almost all the children in its care, with a focus on those under the age of 10, after a second migrant child died in Customs and Border Protection custody.
The agency announced the move on Tuesday night, less than a day after the death of an 8-year-old boy from Guatemala, identified in a statement from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as Felipe Alonzo-Gomez. Weeks earlier, a 7-year-old girl from the same country, Jakelin Caal Maquin, died in Border Patrol custody. Her funeral was held in Guatemala this week.
In addition to the medical checks, Customs and Border Protection said that it was reviewing its policies regarding children in its custody and exploring ways to “relieve capacity” in New Mexico and part of Texas. Those options include supervised release and working with nonprofit groups to place children in temporary housing.
The agency also provided new details about Felipe’s final days, in which he was shuttled with his father from facility to facility before falling ill.
According to the agency, Felipe was apprehended with his father around 1 p.m. on Dec. 18, just three miles from the Paso Del Norte Port of Entry in El Paso, Tex. They were returned to the port of entry shortly after 4:30 p.m. that day.
Jakelin Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old girl, died in Border Patrol custody earlier this month. Her funeral was held in Guatemala this week.CreditEdwin Bercian/EPA, via Shutterstock
Two days later, on Dec. 20, they were taken to the El Paso Border Patrol Station, where they showered and received food, juice and water, the agency said. Because of crowding there, they were transported once again, to a Border Patrol station in Alamogordo, N.M., around midnight on Saturday.
At about 9 a.m. on Monday, an agent noticed that Felipe had started coughing and that his eyes seemed “glossy.” About 30 minutes later, he was taken, with his father, to a nearby hospital, the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center.
There, hospital staff diagnosed Felipe with a cold and gave him Tylenol, but they held him for observation after discovering that he had a 103-degree fever. He was released with prescriptions for antibiotics and Ibuprofen just before 3 p.m.
Felipe and his father were taken to a highway checkpoint and given a hot meal, and border agents gave Felipe his prescribed medication at about 5 p.m. At around 7 p.m., he vomited, but his father declined additional medical assistance when Felipe appeared to be doing better, the agency said.
That account could not be corroborated by Felipe’s father, because he has not yet been identified. (Earlier this month, the Border Patrol blamed the death of Jakelin, the 7-year-old girl, on dehydration, though her father disputed that account through a lawyer who said that he had “made sure she was fed and had sufficient water.”)
Around 10 p.m., Felipe was lethargic and nauseated again, so agents took him back to the hospital. En route, he vomited and passed out. When he arrived, hospital staff were unable to revive him, and they declared him dead late Monday evening, just before midnight. The agency had earlier said that Felipe died early Tuesday.
Felipe’s body will be taken to Alamogordo Funeral Home after an autopsy is conducted.