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An 8-Year-Old Boy Died On Christmas Eve After He Was Held By Border Protection

The child died shortly before midnight after showing “signs of potential illness.”

Last updated on December 26, 2018, at 8:09 a.m. ET

Posted on December 25, 2018, at 2:09 p.m. ET

US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan
Susan Walsh / AP

US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan

An 8-year-old boy who was held by US Customs and Border Protection died at Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico, on Monday night, immigration authorities said.

The child, who was from Guatemala, had been in CBP custody since crossing into the US with his father on Dec. 18. The pair were taken to Alamogordo Border Patrol Station on Saturday, officials said Tuesday night.

On Monday morning, "a processing agent noticed that the child was coughing and appeared to have glossy eyes," the CBP said. The child was taken for medical treatment at the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center where he was diagnosed with a common cold and prescribed amoxicillin and ibuprofen before being released, officials said.

Around 7 p.m. local time on Monday, "the child appeared to be nauseous and vomited," the CBP said, adding that the boy's father initially refused further medical treatment. He was later taken back to the hospital as there was no EMT officer on duty at the center, but he lost consciousness en route.

Initially, the CBP said he was pronounced dead on Christmas Day, but said late Tuesday night that the boy died on Christmas Eve shortly before midnight.

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

In the wake of the child's death, the agency said it would review its policies on the "care and custody of children under 10 both at intake and beyond 24 hours in custody." In addition to that, it said it would be "conducting secondary medical checks upon all children in CBP care and custody" with a stronger focus on those under the age of 10. This includes both children who arrive as part of a family and those arriving unaccompanied.

CBP declined to name the child, but Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat, identified him as Felipe Alonzo-Gomez.

"While the CBP notified Congress within 24 hours as mandated by law, we must ensure that we treat migrants and asylum-seekers with human dignity and provide the necessary medical care to anyone in the custody of the United States government," Castro said in a statement. "Congress should investigate this tragedy upon its return to session."

Representatives at the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this month, Jakelin Caal, a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala, died hours after she and her father were taken into custody in New Mexico.

On Friday, Trump administration officials defended their actions in Caal’s case. Border authorities said her father had signed a form at the time of apprehension saying she wasn’t sick. The form was in English and explained to the father in Spanish but he may have only understood an indigenous Mayan language.

Caal’s death was a reminder of the dangers migrants face as they attempt to seek asylum in the US as President Donald Trump continues to push for stricter border and immigration policies.

"With two deaths that we know about just in the last few weeks," Castro said, "Congress will continue to press the Department of Homeland Security until we get answers to all our questions.”

Adolfo Flores contributed to this report.

UPDATE

This post has been updated with a new timeline from CBP officials, who said Tuesday night the boy died late Monday, not early Tuesday.

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