Border Patrol Head Calls for Overhaul After Second Child Dies in Custody
On Christmas Eve, an eight-year-old Guatemalan boy, who has been identified by US Representative Joaquin Castro as Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, died in the custody of US Border Patrol. The tragedy comes just two weeks after the death of seven-year-old border detainee Jakelin Caal, also an underage asylum-seeker from Guatemala. Now, the head of Customs and Border Protection is once again pleading to Congress for more funding to process the surge of people crossing the southern US border.
CBP Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan told CBS This Morning on Wednesday that border detention facilities were built three to four decades ago for holding single adult males, not families with children. As such, these centers are ill equipped for the influx of “huge numbers of families with lots of children, young children, as well as unaccompanied minors coming into Border Patrol custody.”
He added: “We need to budget for medical care and mental health care for children in our facilities.”
In the interim, Border Patrol is putting new procedures into place in hopes of preventing further tragedy among its population of young detainees. These include a policy of secondary medical checks on all children in CBP custody, especially children under 10, and options to transport families to Family Residential Centers, supervised release, as well as alternative custody options for children and parents. CBP is also looking into partnering with other government agencies for medical assistance.
The cause of death for the eight-year-old boy is currently unknown, though the child was brought to a hospital with cold symptoms and released with medication on the day prior to his death. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Castro has called for a congressional investigation into the child’s death.
(Photo by Mario Tama / Getty Images)