After two eight-year-old Guatemalan children died while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in December 2018, CBP has announced changes to its policies for handling child immigrants. Specifically, CBP indicated that they would be performing secondary medical checks on all children taken into custody, with a special focus on those children under the age of 10. The agency also is considering requesting additional medical support from other government agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control.
Furthermore, CBP has recognized the need to review its procedures for holding immigrants in custody so as to alleviate overcrowding in centers located in the El Paso area. CPB also has taken the step of informing the media of any deaths of individuals in their custody within 24 hours.
CBP Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in December, told the group of senators that CBP facilities were designed to detain mostly male single adults, not families and children. He underscored the need to work with Health and Human Services in order to transfer the children to more appropriate custody situations.
According to CBP, the second boy’s death in December occurred on Christmas Eve. The child developed a cough, fever, and vomiting after about a week in custody. He received treatment from a local medical centers, including a prescription antibiotic, but his condition eventually worsened. The boy stopped breathing while en route to the same hospital, and emergency medical personnel were unsuccessful in attempting to resuscitate him. An autopsy showed that the child died of the flu.
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