An 8-year-old boy from Guatemala, identified as Felipe Alonzo Gomez, died while in U.S. Customs and Border Protection this Christmas Eve, becoming the second child to die in U.S. custody this month.
According to the Associated Press, Felipe and his father Agustin Gomez were in CBP custody since Dec. 18. In a statement released on Tuesday, the agency said an agent noticed Felipe had a cough and “glossy eyes” on Monday morning. He was then found to have a fever of 103 degrees Farenheit but was released from the hospital around 3 p.m. and was prescribed amoxicillin and ibuprofen. CBP says his father “declined further medical assistance” later in the evening, but around 10 p.m. agents took him to the hospital again, where he then died at 11:48 p.m.
The two were in CBP custody for about a week, though typically immigrants are only supposed to be detained for a few days. The Associated Press reports that CBP holding facilities are “usually smaller and have fewer services than ICE detention centers.”
Now, the CBP will be ordering medical checks on every child in its custody and says it needs other government agencies to help provide health care. In response, RAICES (the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) tweeted, “It took the deaths of two children in one month for this—something that should be routine. It’s not b/c our system intentionally dehumanizes migrants to stop more coming. Every tale of a hielera or months detained by ICE stops someone seeking asylum. Every death is a deterrent.”
This same week, the body of 7-year-old Jackeline Caal, who died while in CBP custody earlier in December, was returned to Guatemala for a burial.
In response to the news, the ACLU tweeted, calling the death “a horrific tragedy.” The organization wrote, “The next Congress should make an investigation into @DHSgov one of its first items on the agenda.”