U.S. Customs and Border Protection has ordered medical checks on every child in its custody after an 8-year-old boy from Guatemala died, marking the second death of an immigrant child in the agency’s care this month.
The death came during an ongoing dispute over border security and with a partial government shutdown underway over President Donald Trump’s request for border wall funding.
The boy, identified by Guatemalan authorities as Felipe Gómez Alonzo, had been in CBP’s custody with his father, Agustin Gomez, since Dec. 18. CBP said in a statement late Tuesday that an agent first noticed the boy had a cough and “glossy eyes” at about 9 a.m. Monday. He was eventually hospitalized twice and died just before midnight, the agency said.
CBP said in the statement that it needs the help of other government agencies to provide health care. The agency “is considering options for surge medical assistance” from the Coast Guard and may request help from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
A CBP spokesman could not immediately answer how many children are currently in the agency’s custody. But with border crossings surging, CBP processes thousands of children — both alone and with their parents — every month.
Immigration advocates and human rights groups sharply criticized CBP in the wake of Felipe’s death. The body of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal, who died earlier this month, was returned this past week to her village in Guatemala for burial.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said Wednesday that the agency has more than 1,500 emergency medical technicians on staff and that officers are taking dozens of sick children to hospitals every day.
By Associated Press for KJZZ.COM
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