An 8-year-old Guatemalan boy who jumped the border with his father and was caught by the Border Patrol died while in federal custody early Tuesday, Homeland Security officials said.
The death follows one earlier this month of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl, in an incident that left Democrats saying the Trump administration had blood on its hands.
And in this latest case, the boy’s father is claiming his son was not ill when U.S. officials took them in custody.
Border Patrol agents said they spotted signs of potential illness Monday and took the boy and his father to a hospital, where the child was diagnosed with a common cold then found to have a fever. The child was treated with amoxicillin and Ibuprofen and then released Monday afternoon back to the Border Patrol.
But later that evening, he was vomiting and was sent back to the hospital. He died early Tuesday, Homeland Security said. No cause of death was given.
According to the Guatemalan consul in Phoenix, however, Agustin Gomez has told his country’s officials that his son had been in “perfect health.”
Consul Oscar Padilla also told reporters in the Southwest that the boy’s name was Felipe Gomez Alonzo and that the pair had been hoping to get to Tennessee. He said he had spoken to Mr. Gomez, 47, by phone.
U.S. officials did not detail the circumstances of the crossing nor how long the family was in Border Patrol custody, but the boy and his father are part of the surge of illegal immigrants from Central America who are testing the capacity of immigration authorities.
Earlier this month, a 7-month-old Guatemalan girl and her father were caught as part of a group of more than 160 illegal immigrants in remote New Mexico.
Agents screened the family when they were caught and the father said there was no medical issue, but hours later she became sick then stopped breathing, had to be revived twice by agents, and was flown to a hospital where she died after liver failure, heart attack and respiratory failure.
Officials say the girl and her father jumped the border late at night in a remote part of New Mexico, making it difficult to process the massive group quickly.
Tuesday’s death also occurred in a rugged area of New Mexico that had not been a major crossing point for illegal immigrants over the years.
Immigrant-rights groups say Customs and Border Protection, the agency that oversees the Border Patrol and the ports of entry, must view the two deaths this month as a wake-up call.
“It’s Christmas Day and the parents of this 8-year old child will receive the most gruesome news about their lovely son courtesy of the U.S. government,” said Angelica Salas, Executive Director for Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).
She said CBP “does not even pretend to care for the well-being and lives of migrants under its care.”
She called for an investigation into the deaths.
Rep.-elect Xochitl Torres Small, a Democrat who will represent the district in the new Congress, called for both an investigation and for the deployment of more medical resources along the border.
“This is inexcusable,” she said in a statement Tuesday. “Instead of immediately acting to keep children and all of us safe along our border, this administration forced a government shutdown over a wall.”
The government was already reviewing the circumstances of the Guatemalan girl’s death earlier this month, and the Homeland Security inspector general has announced an investigation.
One major complaint in the earlier case was the delay of a week between the death and the time it leaked to the press — after which authorities acknowledged it publicly.
Tuesday’s death was announced within hours.