Another Guatemalan Migrant Child Has Died in Government Custody, U.S. Immigration Authorities Say

U.S. Customs and Border Protection have confirmed that an eight-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. The boy was given one dose of the medication and continued to have a fever and vomit through the night. Eventually staff brought him back to the hospital, where he passed away on Christmas morning.

The official cause of death is not yet known, and the child's body will be sent to Albuquerque for autopsy.

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.

The father and son were then 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.

In a release, CBP said that they held the father and son in a field for about three and a half hours after catching them trying to illegally cross into the El Paso, Texas area.

This is the second child to die in CBP custody this month. A seven-year-old girl from Guatemala, Jakelin Caal, passed away in early December just hours after being taken into custody with her father.

In light of the recent deaths, CBP Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan has issued guidelines to perform health inspections on all children in custody, especially those under the age of 10, and is looking at multiple ways to relieve congestion in their El Paso facilities, including looking towards NGOs and charities to provide short-term housing for those seeking asylum.

The CBP, wrote McAleenan, is also "considering options for surge medical assistance from interagency partners, including receiving support the U.S. Coast Guard, and potentially requesting further aid from the Department of Defense, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Health and Human Services to assist the U.S. Border Patrol with supplemental medical capabilities." In addition, they're coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control on the numbers of children in custody.

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."

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A young girl traveling with the Central American migrants to the United States smiles as she receives gifts from a nongovernmental organization as part of the Christmas celebrations, outside a temporary shelter in downtown Tijuana, Mexico on December 24. GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images