Another child just died in US Customs and Border Protection custody

A boy stands by the coffin of Jakelin Caal, a 7-year-old girl who died in US custody.
A boy stands by the coffin of Jakelin Caal, a 7-year-old girl who died in US custody.
Image: Reuters/Carlos Barria
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The news out of US Customs and Border Protection on Christmas is anything but merry. In a brief statement, the federal agency today (Dec. 25) announced the death of an eight-year-old Guatemalan child it was holding.

The child, whose name was not released (as is customary in cases involving children) died early in the morning of Dec. 25 in the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico. He was admitted to the same center on Dec. 24 and diagnosed with a common cold and fever, then released that same afternoon after 90 minutes of observation and given prescriptions for the antibiotic amoxicillin and Ibuprofen.

The agency’s statement doesn’t explain what happened in the intervening hours between his release and return to the medical center where he died, nor what time he returned.It doesn’t provide a cause of death. There’s also no indication of just how long the boy has been in US government custody or where he was being held. The agency statement says only that he’d been “previously apprehended” and that his father was with him.

This is the second death of a young child in US custody this month. On Dec. 8, a seven-year-old Guatemalan girl, Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, died while being held by federal agents. There was some speculation that the cause of death was dehydration but no formal autopsy has yet established this fact.

The case reignited controversy about the Trump administration’s crackdown on asylum seekers crossing into the US from Mexico, and particularly the government’s treatment of children. On Dec. 24, a United Nations human-rights expert and Chilean professor of international law, González Morales, called on American authorities to conduct a full and independent investigation into Caal Maquin’s death. “As repeatedly stated by a series of UN human rights bodies, detention of children based on their migratory status is a violation of international law,” Morales said.

With another death on its hands, on Christmas no less, the pressure on border agents and the administration is not going to relent.