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Border Patrol Is Conducting Medical Checks After Second Child’s Death in Custody

After exhibiting flu-like symptoms, the eight-year-old boy died just before midnight on Christmas Eve

A Customs and Border Patrol car parked near the border fence

A Customs and Border Patrol agent patrols the international border in Nogales, Ariz.

Matt York/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Felipe Gómez Alonzo was only eight years old when he died in custody of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. He is the second child to die while under the agency’s care. Seven-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin also died in custody earlier in the month, and in response, CBP has ordered medical checks on every child in its facilities.

Authorities said the child and his father, Agustin Gomez, crossed the border three miles from a legal checkpoint near the Paso del Norte bridge that connects El Paso to Juarez, Mexico. They were apprehended and have been in custody since December 18.

According to a timeline released by CBP, an agent noticed Felipe was coughing and had “glossy eyes” on Monday morning. He was taken to the hospital, accompanied by his father, and diagnosed with a common cold and released. When he began vomiting, he was again taken to the hospital where he vomited again and lost consciousness. Doctors were unable to revive him, and he died just before midnight on Christmas Eve.

In the wake of these deaths, CBS reports that the agency is “considering options for surge medical assistance” from the Coast Guard and might request help from other agencies such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Guatemalan Foreign Ministry released a statement on Tuesday and said they will meet with Felipe’s father to “hear his version of the facts” and that “medical reports have been requested to clarify the cause of death of the child.”

Congressman Joaquin Castro, incoming chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, issued a statement in response to the child’s death calling for Congress to investigate when it returns to session. “Many questions remain unanswered, including how many children have died in CBP custody. With two deaths that we know about just in the last few weeks, Congress will continue to press the Department of Homeland Security until we get answers to all our questions,” the statement said.

Earlier this week, the body of Jakelin Caal Maquin, the first child to die in CBP’s care, was returned to her family in Guatemala, who held a funeral for her on Tuesday.

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