U.S. Customs and Border Protection have confirmed that an 8-year-old Guatemalan child died Tuesday while in their custody.
The boy passed away just after midnight on December 25, Christmas Day, at Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico. He had been detained by CBP with his father.
In an official statement, the Department of Homeland Security reported that a U.S. border patrol agent noticed the minor exhibiting symptoms of illness on Monday and transported the boy, with his father, to a local hospital.
Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro identified the boy as Felipe Alonzo-Gomez in a statement and said that, “many questions remain unanswered, including how many children have died in CBP custody.”
The boy, said CBP, was initially diagnosed with a cold but later broke into a fever. He was later given prescriptions for amoxicillin and ibuprofen and released from the hospital Monday afternoon. He passed away shortly thereafter.
The official cause of death is not yet known. CBP has said they are conducting an official investigation and will release more information as it is obtained.
Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry said that the boy and his father entered the United States and came into El Paso last week. They were taken about 100 miles west to Border Patrol’s Alamogordo station this Sunday, according to the Associated Press.
A CBP official told the Washington Post that the father and son were held in a small cell at a checkpoint between Las Cruces and Alamogordo, because of overcrowding. Children staying at the checkpoint are not allowed outdoors.
This is the second child to die in CBP custody this month. A 7-year-old girl from Guatemala, Jakelin Caal, passed away in early December just hours after being taken into custody with her father.
The Guatemalan government has been notified of the death “and is currently engaging the father and any family members in Guatemala,” wrote the CBP. The Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General and appropriate members of Congress have also been notified.
“DHS has continued to see a dramatic increase in unaccompanied children and family units arriving at our borders illegally or without authorization,” said the release. “Consistent with existing law, these individuals are held at federal facilities pending their removal or release into the interior of the United States with a notice to appear at a court hearing. During their period of detention they received medical screenings and further treatment as needed.”