More thorough initial health screenings for migrants, as well as secondary screenings, will be held for every child in Border Patrol custody following the deaths of two Guatemalan children this month, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was visiting Yuma, Arizona, on Saturday, a day after her trip to meet border officials and medical staff in El Paso, Texas. It was in El Paso where an 8-year-old died in US government custody.
‘The system is clearly overwhelmed and we must work together to address this humanitarian crisis and protect vulnerable populations,’ Nielsen said in a statement. She called on Congress to ‘act with urgency’.
Late Friday, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said he was among those who met with Nielsen, saying they discussed ‘our immigration needs on the border’. The statement from Margo, a Republican, did not mention the deaths of migrant children or whether it was discussed.
The trip came days after the death of Felipe Gomez Alonzo. Felipe was the second Guatemalan child to die in government custody in three weeks.
Nielsen has called the death ‘deeply concerning and heartbreaking’ and requested medical help from other government agencies, including the US Coast Guard.
More thorough initial health screenings for migrants will be held for every child in Border Patrol custody following the deaths of two Guatemalan children this month, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (above in November) met Friday with border officials and medical staff in El Paso, Texas, where both children died after being detained at the border
Eight-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo (left) died of not-yet-determined causes on Christmas Eve. Seven-year-old Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin (right) died of dehydration on December 8. Many questions about the circumstances of both deaths remain unanswered
As Nielsen made the trip to Texas, New Mexico’s Democratic senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, sent her a letter Friday seeking answers about the boy’s death.
‘The timeline, action and factors that led to Felipe’s death are still developing, but the information that has become public so far is alarming and demands immediate attention and investigation,’ the letter says.
President Donald Trump blamed Democrats for migrant deaths at the border Saturday. He tweeted the deaths are the fault of ‘their pathetic immigration policies that allow people to make the long trek thinking they can enter our country illegally’.
He went on to say: ‘The two children in question were very sick before they were given over to Border Patrol.’
US Rep Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat whose district includes Yuma and much of the US-Mexico-border, on Saturday issued a statement saying Nielsen was visiting Yuma ‘under the dark cloud of a Republican-induced government shutdown, the president’s threats to close the border and the tragic deaths of two children in DHS custody.
President Trump blamed Democrats and ‘pathetic immigration policies’ for all migrant deaths at the border in a pair of tweets on Saturday
Felipe and his father, Agustin Gomez, were apprehended by border agents on December 18 near the Paso del Norte bridge connecting El Paso to Juarez, Mexico, according to US Customs and Border Protection.
The two were detained at the bridge’s processing center and then the Border Patrol station in El Paso, until being taken at about 1am Sunday to a facility in Alamogordo, New Mexico, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) away.
After an agent noticed Felipe coughing, father and son were taken to an Alamogordo hospital, where Felipe was diagnosed with a common cold and found to have a fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius), CBP has said.
Felipe was held for observation for 90 minutes, according to CBP, before being released with prescriptions for amoxicillin and ibuprofen.
But the boy fell sick hours later on Monday and was re-admitted to the hospital. He died just before midnight.
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.
Felipe’s death came three weeks after another migrant child, seven-year-old Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, died from dehydration in Border Patrol Custody.
Jakelin was pronounced dead in an El Paso hospital on December 8, 27 hours after she was arrested with her father, 29-year-old Nery Caal, and 163 others trying to enter the US at the Antelope Wells Port of Entry in New Mexico.