DHS begs for help, orders full review after second migrant child’s death

December 26, 2018

Stung by the second death of a child in its custody this month, the government’s border agency said it’s going back to do a second medical check on every juvenile still in its custody and is begging other agencies for help.

Customs and Border Protection also acknowledged that the 8-year-old Guatemalan boy, who came with his father, had been in agents’ custody for six days before his death, and Guatemalan officials say they believe the boy was healthy when he arrived in the U.S., putting ever more scrutiny on CBP’s handling of the situation.

A timeline of events released by the agency shows the boy and his father were shuttled through three different processing facilities over six days but CBP also said agents made more than two dozen “welfare checks” during that time, and the boy and his father had hot food, water and juice throughout.

Still, CBP Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan announced a full review of all children’s health situation, said they will examine their own care policies and asked everyone from the Coast Guard to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for help.

“This is a tragic loss,” he said in a statement late Tuesday, adding, “our deepest sympathies go out to the family.”

The death has fueled an already raging debate over CBP’s handling of the massive surge of illegal immigrant families that’s straining Homeland Security’s abilities. Democrats in Congress and immigrant-rights activists across the country have said the blood of children is on the government’s hands, insisting bad policies and poor attitudes contributed to the deaths.

In the case of a 7-year-old girl earlier this month, she arrived at the border in remote New Mexico with her father and it took some time to get her to a processing facility. She began vomiting then stopped breathing en route, and agents managed to revive her twice, though she died a day later at a hospital after suffering liver and respiratory failure and a heart attack.

Administration officials say a long rough journey through Mexico must have compromised the girl, and she was in their custody for mere hours.

The new case is tougher to wave away.

Guatemalan officials said Tuesday that the father says the boy was healthy when they arrived and were arrested as part of a group of migrants just west of El Paso, Texas, in the early afternoon of Dec. 18.

They were kept in the field for more than three hours, CBP said, though it didn’t offer an explanation. By late afternoon they were at a first processing center where they were given food and water and kept for two more days, then shipped to another CBP facility where they stayed for another two nights.

Between those two locations, they were given 23 welfare checks, which involves an agent eyeballing them and asking if they needed anything or if anything was wrong.

On Sunday, because of overcrowding at the El Paso facility they were in, they were shipped to a facility in New Mexico and on Monday six days after they were arrested CBP contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for a more permanent placement.

Just hours later on the morning of Christmas Eve, an agent noticed the boy coughing and reported he had “glossy eyes.” Half an hour later they were taken to a hospital for a flu check, CBP says.

The boy was diagnosed with a cold, given Tylenol and kept for observation, when he developed a 103-degree fever. He was treated with ibuprofen and amoxicillin and released in the middle of the afternoon, sent to a temporary facility at a Border Patrol checkpoint, had a meal and was given a dose of the medications.

At 7 p.m., still at the checkpoint, the boy vomited. Agents cleaned up the vomit but say the father refused further medical assistance.

At 10 p.m. the child was observed to be lethargic and since no agent on duty had emergency medical skills, he was taken back to the hospital. He vomited and lost consciousness in the hour between his condition emerging and his arrival at the hospital, and was pronounced dead about 40 minutes after arrival.

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