An 8-year-old Guatemalan boy in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody was pronounced dead on Christmas Eve. The death of Felipe Alonzo-Gomez sent shockwaves throughout as his death marks the second migrant child death in less than a month, following the death of 7-year-old Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin of Guatemala. Now, Democratic lawmakers are calling for congressional hearings and drafting legislation to require health standards for immigration agencies, reports NBC Latino.
“The conditions there really are subhuman,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas on Wednesday in a telephone news conference. Castro, who is in line to chair the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, called for “a congressional investigation as soon as Congress comes back into session.” He shared with reporters that “systemic failures” at immigration agencies were contributing “to serious injury and illness and to the deaths of these migrants.”
Rep. Raul Ruiz of California is working with Castro to draft legislation that would establish “basic or minimum health care standards” for CBP. Ruiz has called for immigration authorities to conduct more meaningful medical screenings, including a questionnaire, a review of symptoms, medical history, an analysis of a migrant’s vital signs and examination with medical personnel.
“We need to think like physicians and think like humanitarian aid specialists and we need to match the response to the needs that we are seeing,” Ruiz said.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen announced Wednesday the government would call upon several agencies to assist CBP to improve how it cares for children and adults held in federal facilities.
“It is now clear that migrants, particularly children, are increasingly facing medical challenges and harboring illness caused by their long and dangerous journey,” Nielsen said in a statement. “Moving forward, all children will receive more thorough hands-on assessments at the earliest possible time post apprehension – whether or not the accompanying adult has asked for one.”
The deaths of Alonzo-Gomez and Maquin are the first child deaths in more than a decade, according to Nielsen.
Alonzo-Gomez’s death occurred right before Christmas and on the same day Maquin’s body arrived back to her homeland. Based on the timeline of events from CBP, a processing agent noticed “the child was coughing and appeared to have glossy eyes” and transferred Alonzo-Gomez to the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center. He was diagnosed with a common cold and given Tylenol, but when he was evaluated for release, hospital staff found a fever and Alonzo-Gomez was held for an additional 90 minutes before being released on Monday afternoon, according to CBP. He was given prescriptions for an antibiotic, amoxicillin, and the painkiller ibuprofen. CBP reported Alonzo-Gomez and his father were transported to a temporary holding at the Highway 70 checkpoint. Later that evening, he was brought back to the hospital, vomiting and losing consciousness on the way. He was pronounced dead before midnight.
While lawmakers seem to show immediate concern over the recent deaths, the Trump administration has yet to acknowledge his name. It’s yet another sign of the president’s harmful immigration agenda.