Here’s what Border Patrol is doing differently after a second child died in its custody

An agent from the border patrol, observes near the Mexico-US border fence, on the Mexican side, separating the towns of Anapra, Mexico and Sunland Park, N.M.
An agent from the border patrol, observes near the Mexico-US border fence, on the Mexican side, separating the towns of Anapra, Mexico and Sunland Park, N.M.
(Christian Torres / AP)
New York Daily News

U.S. Customs and Border Protection ordered medical checks for all minors in its custody after a second child died in the agency’s care this week.

An 8-year-old Guatemalan boy, identified by authorities as Felipe Gomez Alonzo, died shortly before midnight on Christmas Eve at Gerald Regional Medical center in Alamorgordo, N.M. He and his father were detained by CBP on Dec. 18 trying to cross the border a few miles west of the Paso Del Norte Port of Entry in El Paso, Texas.

A Border Patrol agent noticed the boy was coughing and appeared to have “glossy eyes” and transferred him to the hospital around 9 a.m. Monday with possible “influenza symptoms,” according to a CBP statement. He was released before 3 p.m., about 90 minutes after he was found to have a 103-degree fever. He was diagnosed with a cold.

A few hours later he started vomiting, but his father “declined further medical assistance,” according to the CBP. Around 10 p.m. the boy “appeared lethargic and nauseous again” and died at the hospital 11:48 p.m.


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

8-year-old Guatemalan boy dies in Border Patrol custody »

His death comes weeks after a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl, identified as Jakelin Caal, also died in Customs and Border Protection custody on Dec. 8. She and her father, Neddie Gilberto Caal Cruz, were among a large group of migrants who turned themselves in at the border in New Mexico on Dec. 6.

Eight hours after they were detained, the girl began having seizures and had a temperature of 105.7 degrees. She was airlifted to the hospital in El Paso, where she went into cardiac arrest. She was revived several times, but died later the same night.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a statement late Wednesday afternoon said she has “directed a series of additional actions to care for those who enter our custody,” including a request for the Centers for Disease Control to “investigate the uptick in sick children crossing our borders.”

“At my direction, all children in Border Patrol Custody have been given a thorough medical screening,” she continued. “Moving forward, all children will receive a more thorough hands on assessment at the earliest possible time post apprehension — whether or not the accompanying adult has asked for one.”

Nielsen also intends to visit the border to review the facilities where migrant children are being housed.

McAleenan during an appearance on “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday said the agency needs assistance from Congress to handle the recent “enormous flow” of children.

“What we’re seeing is more children than ever before coming into our custody. At this pace in December we’ll have almost 25,000 children, most of them accompanied by parents who have crossed our border and arriving in custody... That’s very different than we’ve seen before,” he said.

“It’s been more than a decade that we’ve had a child pass away anywhere in a CBP process so this is just devastating for us.”

The agency said in a statement late Tuesday that it is also considering requesting additional medical assistance from its interagency partners, including “receiving support from the U.S. Coast Guard and potentially requesting further aid from the Department of Defense, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Health and Human Services.”

CBP is additionally working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement on available surge options for transportation to Family Residential Centers and supervised release, the agency said in a statement.

The children’s deaths have also sparked a review of CBP polices with “particular focus upon care and custody of children under 10 both at intake and beyond 24 hours in custody.”