A second migrant child detained at the United States’ Southern border in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody has died.
12 minutes before Christmas day, eight-year-old Guatemalan boy Felipe Gómez Alonzo succumbed to an undisclosed illness that had hours before brought him to Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, NM for what was initially diagnosed as a cold.
But his condition continued to deteriorate.
CBP commissioner, Kevin McAleenan, said in a Christmas Day statement:
“This is a tragic loss. On behalf of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, our deepest sympathies go out to the family.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) tweeted:
“What is happening at our southern border?! This makes the second death of a young child at our border in as many weeks. This is outrageous! This shocks the conscience.”
Democratic Rep.-elect Xochitl Torres Small, who will begin representing the New Mexico district incorporating Alamogordo next month, decried the boy’s death as “inexcusable,” and demanded additional medical resources at the border.
In a statement, Torres Small said:
“Instead of immediately acting to keep children and all of us safe along our border, this administration forced a government shutdown over a wall.”
Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, who will begin chairing the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in January, further criticized Trump administration policies that created this situation, accusing the White House of “putting families and children in great danger.”
El Paso Rep. Beto O’Rourke also weighed in on Twitter:
“We are very saddened to learn of the death of another child in U.S. custody. We must focus on the wellbeing of these children above any other concern.”
CBP confirmed that Felipe Gómez Alonzo‘s father has been in contact with the Guatemalan consulate. The Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated it “will request a clear investigation and safeguarding due process in this case from the US authorities.”
She was buried Christmas day in her hometown of Raxruhá.
Her death, and now Felipe Gómez Alonzo‘s, has motivated Felipe González Morales, the United Nations special rapporteur on migrants’ human rights, to send U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a formal complaint and request for an in-depth independent investigation.
González said in an interview with The Guardian:
“Detention of children has such a severe impact on them that we have repeatedly warned of the risks. When a person, especially a child, is in the custody of a state, that state has to ensure their rights. States have an obligation to care for migrants who arrive at the border, they cannot treat them as animals in inhuman [sic] conditions. I’m not saying this happened in this case, but the US has a duty in this regard.”
“I want to make sure that judges and public attorneys carry out the investigation fully in an independent manner without any pressure from the immigration authorities. An internal CBP inquiry would not be satisfactory.”
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