US says 2nd Guatemalan child dies in immigration custody

2018-12-26 06:57

An 8-year-old boy from Guatemala died in government custody in New Mexico early on Tuesday, US immigration authorities said, marking the second death of an immigrant child in detention 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.

READ: Body of girl who died at US border returns to Guatemala

US Customs and Border Protection said the boy - identified by the Guatemalan consul in Phoenix as Felipe Gómez Alonzo - had shown "signs of potential illness" on Monday and was taken with his father to a hospital in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

He was diagnosed with a cold and a fever, prescribed amoxicillin and ibuprofen, and released on Monday afternoon after being held 90 minutes for observation, the agency said.

The boy was returned to the hospital on Monday evening with nausea and vomiting and died there just after 00:00, CBP said.

Cause of death

CBP has not yet confirmed when or where the father and son entered the US or how long they were detained, saying only in its statement that the boy had been "previously apprehended" by its agents.

The agency said the cause of the boy's death has not been determined and that it has notified the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general and the Guatemalan government.

A 7-year-old Guatemalan girl died earlier this month after being apprehended by border agents in New Mexico. The body of the girl, Jakelin Caal, was returned to her family's remote village on Monday for burial on Tuesday.

The White House referred questions about the latest case to the US Department of Homeland Security, CBP's parent agency. CBP officers and the Border Patrol remain on the job despite the shutdown.

According to Guatemala's foreign ministry, the father and son entered the US at El Paso, Texas, on December 18, then were taken to the Border Patrol's Alamogordo station on Sunday.

Alamogordo is about 145km from El Paso.

Oscar Padilla, the Guatemalan consul in Phoenix, said he was told by the boy's father in a telephone interview that the two had been traveling from their home in Nentón, a village about 450km from Guatemala City. They were planning to go to Johnson City, Tennessee.

The consul identified the father as 47-year-old Agustin Gomez, and said he remains in US Border Patrol custody.

CBP typically detains immigrants for no more than a few days when they cross the border before either releasing them or turning them over to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement for longer-term detention.

Agency guidelines say immigrants generally shouldn't be detained for more than 72 hours in CBP holding facilities, which are usually smaller and have fewer services than ICE's detention centres.

Parents and children together are almost always released quickly due to limited space in ICE's family detention facilities.

A CBP spokesperson on Tuesday did not respond to questions about the ministry's statement.

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