U.S. Customs and Border Protection Changes Its Policies After A Second Migrant Child Died In Its Custody

After an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy died in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency decided to change its policies in order to keep other migrant children safe, NBC News reports. 

CBP main policy change is “secondary medical checks” on all kids in the agency’s custody, with priority given to children under 10 years old, according to CNN. It’s unclear as to what the agency’s “secondary medical checks” will entail. 

Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, who was detained with his father, is the second child this month to die in U.S. custody. Earlier this month, 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin died in CBP’s care after being detained with her father for only 48 hours. According to the Associated Press, the boy was taken to the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico, after a border agent saw signs of illness. The hospital’s doctors diagnosed him with a cold and later determined he had 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 and Ibuprofen,” CBP said in a statement, obtained by CNN. The child began vomiting on Monday night and returned to the hospital for further evaluation. He later died on Christmas morning. The official cause of death is currently unknown. 

In a statement provided to CNN, CBP said it will start to work with other agencies to offer more medical attention to migrants in the future. The agency plans to work with the Department of Health and Human Service, the Department of Defense, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It will also work with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to quicken the transfer process to long-term detention and housing centers, or it will grant children supervised release.

Rep. Joaquin Castro, chairman-elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who also identified Alonzo-Gomez on Tuesday, offered his condolences to the young boy’s family and criticized CBP’s and the administration’s treatment of asylum-seekers.

“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, according to CNN.

In regards to the Trump administration’s policy of turning people away from legal ports of entry or “metering," Castro said in a statement that it’s “putting families and children in great danger.” 

The CBP said that the Department of Homeland Security was bringing in more children than expected, and that more medical services would be needed at legal entry points. 

“Many questions remain unanswered, including how many children have died in CBP custody,” Castro said.