NEW YORK –An 8-year-old Guatemalan migrant died in U.S. Border Patrol custody on Christmas Day (Tuesday), the agency announced.
In a news release, CBP said the child, whose name was not released, was showing signs of illness on Monday while in custody with his father. Both were taken to the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The child was diagnosed with a common cold and, when evaluated for release, was found to have a fever, the agency said.
CBP said the child was given a prescription for amoxicillin and ibuprofen and taken back to the migrant detention center. Later Monday, the child began vomiting and was returned to the hospital and died there shortly after midnight.
“The official cause of the child’s death is not known,” CBP said.
A review is underway and the Guatemalan government has been notified.
In its initial release, CBP did not say how long the child and his father had been in custody.
The death comes less than two weeks after 7-year-old Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, also from Guatemala, died in CBP custody in New Mexico.
Maquin showed signs of illness shortly after being taken into CBP custody. She was apprehended with her father and a large group of migrants that had illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, officials said.
Border Patrol said Maquin had died from dehydration, but her father, Nery Gilberto Caal Cruz, disputed that assertion, saying that he “made sure she was fed and had sufficient water.”
Several Democratic members of Congress responded to news of the boy’s death with sharp criticism of the Trump administration’s approach to the border.
“Heartbroken and sickened by this news,” Senator Martin Heinrich, Democrat of New Mexico, said on Twitter. “I am urgently demanding more details, but the Trump administration must be held accountable for this child’s death and all the lives they have put in danger with their intentional chaos and disregard for human life.”
Officials in the Homeland Security Department have struggled to answer questions about how many people have been harmed as a result of the administration’s detention policies. Last week, for example, Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of Homeland Security, was unable to answer a question about how many people had died in custody.
“I will get back to you with the number,” Ms. Nielsen said after she was pressed by lawmakers during a contentious House Judiciary Committee hearing.
In its statement, Customs and Border Protection said that it would follow a list of procedures that were put in place Dec. 17, just days after Jakelin’s death. Among them is notifying the news media and Congress within 24 hours of a death in custody.
Earlier this year, the administration weathered fierce criticism for zero tolerance policies that led to the separation of some 3,000 children from their parents.
In a Christmas morning question-and-answer session with reporters, President Trump touted his administration’s immigration policies and demanded further funding for a border wall. While he castigated migrants, the president did not bring up the boy’s death hours earlier.
“So you have drugs, you have human trafficking,” Mr. Trump said. “You have illegal people coming into our country. We can’t do that. We don’t know who they are.”
In a brief phone call to The New York Times, Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman, called the death of the 8-year-old boy “very sad” and said that administration officials were still trying to get a clearer understanding of what had happened to him from the Department of Homeland Security.