An 8-year-old Guatemalan child detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection died early Tuesday at a hospital in New Mexico, the agency reported.
The unidentified child is the second border-crosser to die in government custody this month. Seven-year-old Jakelin Caal, another Guatemalan national, died Dec. 8 of dehydration and shock, less than a day after she was apprehended by border agents.
In the second case, an agent noticed Monday that the child had become ill. The boy and his father were taken to Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico, where the boy was diagnosed with a cold, according to a CBP news release.
Later, he was found to have a fever and was held for an additional 90 minutes before he was released with prescriptions for an antibiotic and Ibuprofen.
But the child became more seriously ill Monday night, when he vomited, and was taken back to the hospital. He died shortly after midnight on Christmas Day.
The cause of the child’s death is not known. It was not clear where the boy was being held or when he was apprehended, and a CBP spokesman declined to provide additional details.
An investigation into CBP actions will be conducted by the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility, the news release said. The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general and Congress have been notified, it said.
The Guatemalan government also has been notified. Guatemalan officials are meeting with the boy’s father and will speak with any family members who are in Guatemala, according to the news release.
Jakelin’s family has disputed CBP reports that the child went several days without food and water before she died, saying she was healthy when she arrived in the United States. In a news conference earlier this month, a migrant advocate said the girl’s father, 29-year-old Nery Caal, had told him that Jakelin was healthy and had no preexisting conditions.
“He’s been very clear, very consistent that his daughter was healthy, and his daughter very much wanted to come with him,” said Ruben Garcia, founder and executive director of Annunciation House, an El Paso-based nonprofit that aids migrants.
The symptoms the 8-year-old boy exhibited are similar to the ones Jakelin manifested before she died.
More than a day before she died, Jakelin, her father and 161 other Central American migrants crossed the U.S. border outside Antelope Wells, New Mexico, seeking to turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents.
The Department of Homeland Security has said that the girl did not show signs of health problems during a routine check conducted when she and her father were taken into custody.
“The initial screening revealed no evidence of health issues. During the screening, the father denied that either he or his daughter were ill. This denial was recorded on Form I-779 signed by the father,” the DHS account said. It added that they were offered food and water, and had access to restrooms. The form was in English, but CBP officials said agents provided a verbal translation.
The family’s attorneys have said that it was “unacceptable” to have Jakelin’s father sign a document in a language that he didn’t understand.
Jakelin’s body was returned to Guatemala on Monday.