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  • The U.S. border authorities will change policies after two immigrant children died in its custody.

    The U.S. border authorities will change policies after two immigrant children died in its custody. | Photo: Reuters

Published 26 December 2018

U.S. Customs and Border Protection are considering certain policy changes after the second immigrant child from Guatemala died in its custody. 

In the wake of the death of two immigrant children while under the care of United States immigration authorities, within months, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is developing several policy changes, according to its officials, which critics have referred to as yet more broken promises.

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An eight-year-old Guatemalan migrant boy died early on Christmas Day after being detained by the United States border agents, the CBP said.

Joaquin Castro, a U.S. Representative, and chairman-elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus identified the boy as Felipe Alonzo-Gomez.  

The boy and his father were in CBP custody Monday when a Border Patrol agent noticed the child showing signs of illness, CBP said in a statement. The father and son were taken to the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico, where the boy was diagnosed with a common cold and fever, and eventually released by hospital staff.

"The child was held for an additional 90 minutes for observation and then released from the hospital mid-afternoon on December 24 with prescriptions for amoxicillin and Ibuprofen," CBP said in a news release.

But later that evening, he began vomiting and was transferred back to the hospital. He died there early Tuesday, CBP said, adding that the official cause of death was not known. Guatemalan officials have been notified of the death.  

His death followed the death in early December of seven-year-old Jakelin Caal, also from Guatemala. She died of dehydration after being detained along with her father by U.S. border agents in a remote part of New Mexico.

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It took the lives of two migrant children for CBP to announce that it will conduct secondary medical checks on all children in its custody, with a focus on those under 10.  

The agency will also work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to improve custody options, such as better transportation to Family Residential Centers and supervised release, and working with non-governmental agencies for housing.

“This is a tragic loss. On behalf of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, our deepest sympathies go out to the family," CBP Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan said in the release.

Guatemala's Foreign Ministry said its consul in Phoenix, Oscar Padilla Lam, met with the boy’s father in Almagordo to hear his version of the incident. In a statement, the ministry said it also requested medical reports to clarify the cause of death.

According to the ministry, the boy and his father entered the United States via El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 18 and were transferred to a border patrol station in Alamogordo on Dec. 23.

CBP said Tuesday that the death of Gomez is being reviewed by the agency's Office of Professional Responsibility and that the Inspector General has been notified of the death.

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