After a second child died in its custody this week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Tuesday night it would review its procedures for how it performs medical checks children.
An 8-year-old Guatemalan boy died Christmas morning while in CBP custody at a hospital in Alamogordo, New Mexico, about 90 miles north of the border crossing at El Paso, Texas, reported CNN. The child, named Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, was with his father. They had both been detained after crossing the border.
“This is a tragic loss,” CBP Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan said. “On behalf of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, our deepest sympathies go out to the family.”
According to the CNN report, a border agent first detected signs of illness in the child, who was taken to an Alamogrodo hospital over the weekend. Hospital medical staff first diagnosed the child with a common cold, but later he developed a fever.
“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 (penicillin) and Ibuprofen,” CBP said in a news release. The child began throwing up and was taken back to the hospital, where he died hours later, according to CBP.
Now, McAleenan said the CBP wanted to focus on the immediate care delivered to children in its custody, especially on those under the age of 10. In a statement, CPB said it was working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to ease transportation and housing restrictions for children, making it easier for them to get medical treatment.
Further, the agency said it was working on other medical care options, such as coordinating with the Department of Defense, the U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But that doesn’t heal the wounds for the family of Alonzo-Gomez, said Representative Joaquin Castro, chairman-elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
“While the CBP notified Congress within 24 hours as mandated by law, we must ensure that we treat migrants and asylum-seekers with human dignity and provide the necessary medical care to anyone in the custody of the United States government,” Castro said in a statement.
The CBP said the Department of Homeland Security was bringing in more children than expected, and that more medical screening would be needed at entry points.
On December 8, a 7-year-old girl died in CBP custody for fewer than two days.
“Many questions remain unanswered, including how many children have died in CBP custody,” Castro said