The remote and rural village of Yalambojoch in Guatemala is mourning the death of the second child who died in U.S. custody near the Mexican border.
The family of Guatemalan boy Felipe Gomez Alonzo cried and lit candles at a makeshift altar for the eight-year-old child who died suddenly on Christmas Eve after being held at a border facility for two weeks.
The family posted his photos, placed white flowers and flickering candles at the atar, and wrote the epitaph ‘Felipe Gomez Alonzo. Died Dec. 24 2018 in New Mexico, United States.’
The child’s tragic death sent shock waves through the nation and shed light on how migrants passing through the borders are treated when they’re held in detention centers and border facilities awaiting word from border control.
Guatemalan boy Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8, died on Christmas Eve while in U.S. Custody after suffering a cough, vomiting and fever, authorities said. The cause is under investigation
Felipe’s mother Catarina Alonzo pictured center crying over the loss of her eight-year-old son
On Saturday Felipe grandmother Catarina Perez led a candle light vigil for Felipe in his home in the rural village of Yalambojoch, Guatemala
She bent her head and broke down in tears as she and relatives lit candles in Felipe’s memory
Calla lilies and candles adorn a makeshift altar honoring 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo, in his mother’s home in Yalambojoch, Guatemala
A poster with photo copies that show Felipe Gomez Alonzo is taped to a wall as part of a makeshift altar honoring the 8-year-old, inside his mother’s home in Yalambojoch, Guatemala
On Monday morning, Felipe was transported to a local hospital after showing possible signs of influenza. He was given Tylenol and developed a 103 degree fever.
The boy was released at 2:50pm. He was removed from the detention facility at 10pm to be taken back to the hospital after he appeared weak and nauseous. He got to the medical center at 11pm and was declared dead 48 minutes later.
New Mexico authorities said late Thursday that an autopsy showed Felipe had the flu, but more tests need to be done before a cause of death can be determined.
He was apprehended in the U.S. with his father on December 18 near the Paso del Norte bridge connecting El Paso, Texas, to Juarez, Mexico, according to border officials.
They were both were held at the bridge’s processing center and then the Border Patrol station in El Paso before being transferred on Dec. 23 to a facility in Alamogordo, New Mexico, about 90 miles away.
And he’s not the first child to die in U.S. custody.
Guatemalan girl Jakelin Caal, seven, died on December 8 in a hospital in El Paso, Texas, in the early hours of the morning, after showing signs of sepsis.
She was detained along with her father Nery at 9.15pm on December 6th as they crossed into the US in New Mexico illegally.
The death of the two childrens have led to bitter criticism of President Donald Trump, who blamed their death on Democrats.
In response, his Homeland Security secretary has vowed to mandate additional health screenings for detained migrant children.
As for Felipe’s crushed family, they never expected such a tragedy to strike.
The family in the village also had no idea that thousands of migrant children were separated from their parents after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
‘We don’t have a television. We don’t have a radio,’ Catarina Gomez, Felipe’s sister, said Saturday. ‘We didn’t know what had happened before.’
Felipe comes from an impoverished village surrounded by mountains. There’s just a single small school, dirt roads that become flooded in the rainy season, and small homes without insulation, flooring, water, or electricity.
Women in Felipe’s family pictured above with their heads hung at Saturday’s vigil
Felipe and his father ventured to the U.S. alone. The father called his wife Catarina Alonzo (above) on Christmas Day to give her the heartbreaking news of their son’s sudden death
Maria Gomez, aunt of Felipe Gomez Alonzo, an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy who died in U.S. custody, cries as she retells memories of him in his home village of Yalambojoch, Guatemala
According to his autopsy, the child passed away of the flu while in the care of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Agency. His grieving mother Catarina Alonzo Perez pictured above
Artwork by Felipe Gomez Alonzo, an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy who died in U.S. custody, is taped to a door of the Gomez home in Yalambojoch, Guatemala
Felipe’s six-year-old brother Mateo rests his head on his mother’s lap in their home in Yalambojoch, Guatemala on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018
Felipe comes from an impoverished village surrounded by mountains. There’s just a single small school, dirt roads that become flooded in the rainy season, and small homes without insulation, flooring, water, or electricity
Magdalena Gomez Lucas, center, a sister of Felipe Gomez Alonzo, holds her stepbrother Oliver at their home in Yalambojoch, Guatemala on Saturday
Felipe’s sister said they didn’t know Felipe and his dad would be separated: ‘We don’t have a television. We didn’t know what had happened before’
Felipe’s body is expected to be sent back to Guatemala around mid-January
There are no jobs and resident say that the Guatemalan government has turned a blind eye to their plight, a complaint that can be heard in other impoverished villages in the country.
Many families fled Guatemala during the 1960-1996 civil war then returned after the signing of peace accords.
But with no job opportunities, they’ve left again.
Felipe’s sister, Catarina, said that in recent years ‘everyone started heading for the United States,’ so much so that a local project to boost education financed with Swedish help was abandoned because there were practically no more young people to take the classes.
Felipe’s father Augustin Gomez decided to leave too, due to the extreme poverty and in hope of a better life.
He took Felipe, his eldest son, with him. They never thought the trip would be life-threatening.
‘I didn’t think of that, because several families had already left and they made it,’ the boy’s mother, Catarina Alonzo said in the indigenous Chuj language.
Felipe Gomez Alonzo, eight, (left) lost his life on Christmas Eve after being held at a detention center by the US Customs and Border Protection. The same day, Jakelin Caal Maquin, seven, was being buried in Guatemala after dying of dehydration on December 8 in US custody
Trump blamed the Democrats’ ‘pathetic’ immigration policies for the children’s death
‘If we had a Wall, they wouldn’t even try!’ Trump said of families attempting to cross into the US via the southern border
Felipe was healthy when he left. He last spoke to his mother a day before they were taken to detention facilities at the border.
He said he was well, he ate chicken, and that the next time he’d talk to her would be by the phone in the U.S.
The next call she got was on Christmas Day from her husband who gave her the news that Felipe had died one day prior.
Felipe’s mother Catarina Alonzo wiped tears as she recalled how her young son promised before leaving that when he was grown, he would work to send money home.
Felipe also wanted to buy her a cellphone so she could see pictures of him from afar.
Now she hopes for only two things: That Felipe’s body is returned as soon as possible for burial, and that her husband can remain in the United States to work off debt and support their other kids.
The Guatemalan Consulate in Phoenix has said that Agustin Gomez was released on a humanitarian license allowing him to remain in the United States for now. Felipe’s body is expected to be sent back to Guatemala around mid-January.
Trump claimed Felipe and Jakelin were both ‘very sick’ before they reached the border, though both young migrants passed initial health screenings by Border Patrol.
No child had died in the agency’s custody in more than a decade before this month, according to Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan.
He’s called for a ‘multifaceted solution’ on immigration, including not only better border security and new immigration laws but more aid to the Central American countries the migrants are fleeing from.
Referring to the U.S. pledge earlier this month of $5.8 billion in development aid for Central America, McAleenan called it ‘a tremendous step forward.’
‘There are green shoots of progress both on security and the economic front in Central America. We need to foster that and help improve the opportunities to stay at home,’ he said on ABC’s This Week.