Migrant boy dies in custody after being detained by US border agents

Migrant boy dies in custody after being detained by US border agents.

An eight-year-old Guatemalan boy died in US government custody early on Christmas Day, immigration authorities said, marking the second death of an immigrant child this month after being detained at the border between Mexico and the United States.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a news release that the boy died in hospital shortly after midnight on Tuesday.

The boy showed “signs of potential illness” on Monday and was taken with his father to Gerald Champion regional medical center in Alamogordo, New Mexico, the agency said. Hospital staff diagnosed the child “with a common cold, and when evaluated for release, hospital staff found a fever”, the statement added.

Staff at the hospital held the boy for an additional 90 minutes, before releasing him in the afternoon with prescriptions for amoxicillin and Ibuprofen. Later that same evening, according to the agency statement, after suffering nausea and vomiting, the boy was readmitted to hospital where he died in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

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. The hospital the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center declined to comment, citing privacy regulations.

CBP promised “an independent and thorough review of the circumstances”.

Jakelin Caal, a seven-year-old Guatemalan girl died on 8 December, less than two days after being apprehended by border agents. The body of the girl was returned to her family’s remote village on Monday.

The UN’s special rapporteur, who acts as a global watchdog for the treatment of migrants, told the Guardian that he would demand a special inquiry into Caal’s death.

Family apprehensions at the south-western US norder have increased steadily in the past year, according to CBP data, with more than 25,000 family units – guardians traveling with children – in November of this year. The same time last year, there were a little over 7,000 apprehensions in the same area.

The border agency has not yet said when the father and son entered the United States or how long they were detained, saying only in its statement that the boy had been “previously apprehended”.

The father and son were not identified, and the CBP statement said it will release more details “as available and appropriate”.

Alamogordo is about 90 miles (145km) from the US-Mexico border at El Paso, Texas. Ruben Garcia, director of El Paso’s Annunciation House, said on Tuesday that he had no reason to believe his shelter had served the family, but was waiting for further details about what happened.

Jakelin had also been traveling with her father from a remote village in Guatemala, and died less than two days after being apprehended at the US-Mexico border in early December by four border agents, who also conducted a health observation. On health forms in English, the father indicated his daughter was healthy, according to immigration officials.

The Caal family’s lawyers have said that it was “unacceptable” to have Jakelin’s father sign the document in English, a language that he does not understand.

While being transferred by bus to a border facility, the father notified agents his child was vomiting. Hours later, the girl vomited and stopped breathing in the custody of CBP before being transferred to a hospital, where she suffered brain swelling and cardiac arrest, the agency said.

Democratic members of Congress and immigration advocates sharply criticized CBP’s handling of the death and questioned whether border agents could have prevented it.

Jakelin’s wake was held on Monday, Christmas Eve, in her family’s village.

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