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Another young migrant from Guatemala dies in US custody, inciting outrage and raising questions


He had been in US custody for nearly a week

John Moore/Getty Images

An 8-year-old Guatemalan boy died in Customs and Border Protection custody just before Christmas Day. He was the second young migrant to die while in U.S. custody this month, inciting outrage and raising questions about how U.S. officials care for migrants who fall ill after their long journeys from Central America.

The child has been identified as Felipe Gómez Alonzo.

What are the details?

According to CNN, Alonzo was apprehended by U.S. officials with his father, who together made the long and dangerous journey from Central America in search of a better future for their family. The pair had been in U.S. custody since Dec. 18.

Officials said Alonzo died at a hospital in Alamogordo, New Mexico, just before midnight on Christmas Eve. Agents twice brought Alonzo to the hospital Monday. The first time, the young boy was discharged mid-afternoon after being held for observation. Doctors wrote a prescription for amoxicillin — a commonly prescribed antibiotic — and instructed he take ibuprofen.

Afterward, Alonzo and his father were brought back to an immigrant holding center where Alonzo's condition deteriorated. At one point, he vomited, forcing agents to send him back to the hospital.

A few hours later, he was dead.

"This is a tragic loss. On behalf of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, our deepest sympathies go out to the family," CBP Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan said in a news release.

A cause of death remains unknown. CBP officials said the agency will conduct an investigation.

Additionally, officials did not say why Alonzo and his father had been held at a CBP detention center for nearly a week. Typically, migrants are only held in the facilities for 72 hours before being transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers, which are equipped for long-term care.

How is the government responding?

According to The Associated Press, welfare checks were ordered on every child held in immigrant custody on Tuesday. Meanwhile, CBP officials are looking for ways to alleviate stress at the border from the recent influx of migrants.

CBP is also asking for additional medical assistance from other government agencies.

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