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Tipsheet

CBP Will Be Conducting Health Checks on All Children in Custody Following Death of 8-Year-Old Guatemalan Boy

U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced Tuesday that they will be conducting medical checks on all children in their custody following the death of an eight-year-old Guatemalan boy late Monday evening. The agency also released a timeline of events leading up to the boy’s death at Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

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“U.S. Border Patrol is conducting secondary medical checks upon all children in CBP care and custody, including children arriving as part of Family Units (FMUA) and Unaccompanied Children (UACs), with a focus on children under 10 years old,” the agency announced.

The statement said that CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are looking at “options for transportation to Family Residential Centers and/or supervised release.” CBP is also “reviewing all available custody options to relieve capacity issues in Border Patrol stations and checkpoints in El Paso Sector.”

CBP is additionally seeking the possibility of more medical assistance from interagency partners, including the U.S. Coast Guard, and “potentially requesting further aid from the Department of Defense, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Health and Human Services to assist the U.S. Border Patrol with supplemental medical capabilities.” 

The agency emphasized that it is “reviewing its policies with particular focus upon care and custody of children under 10 both at intake and beyond 24 hours in custody.”

The boy, identified by Guatemalan authorities as Felipe Gómez Alonzo, was in CBP custody with his father, Agustin Gomez, since December 18th.

According to the timeline, the boy and his father were taken to the hospital on Monday after the boy began exhibiting flu-like symptoms. At the hospital, the boy was initially diagnosed with a cold.

The boy was kept in the hospital for observation for 90 minutes after he was found to have a fever but then was released with prescriptions for antibiotics and pain relievers.

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The child’s father declined further medical assistance later that evening when the boy began vomiting because the boy was reportedly feeling better.

However, later that night when the nausea continued he was taken back to the hospital. He vomited and lost consciousness on the way to the hospital where staff were ultimately unable to revive him.

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

The Associated Press reports that CBP has promised “an independent and thorough review of the circumstances,” and the Guatemalan foreign ministry called for an investigation “in accordance with due process.”

Felipe is the second child to die in CBP custody this month. A seven-year-old Guatemalan girl, Jakelin Caal Maquin, died after going without food and water for days prior to being apprehended at the border with her father. The father reportedly absolved CBP of blame in the incident.

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