U.S. immigration authorities say 8-year-old Guatemalan boy has died in custody

An eight-year-old boy from Guatemala died in government custody early Tuesday, said U.S. immigration authorities, marking the second death of a migrant child in detention this month.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) says the boy died shortly after midnight.

The death came during an ongoing dispute over border security and with a partial government shutdown underway over U.S. President Donald Trump's request for border wall funding. The White House did not immediately comment Tuesday on the boy's death. CBP officers and the Border Patrol remain on the job despite the shutdown.

The boy showed "signs of potential illness" Monday and was taken with his father to a hospital in Alamogordo, N.M., the agency said. He was diagnosed with a cold and a fever, was given prescriptions for amoxicillin and Ibuprofen, and released Monday afternoon after being held 90 minutes for observation, the agency said.

The boy was returned to the hospital Monday evening with nausea and vomiting, and died there just hours later, CBP said.

The agency said the cause of the boy's death has not been determined and it has notified the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general and the Guatemalan government.


The hospital — the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center — referred calls to a spokesperson who did not immediately respond to messages requesting comment.

CBP promised "an independent and thorough review of the circumstances."

The Guatemalan foreign ministry called for an investigation "in accordance with due process."

The border agency has not yet said when the father and son entered the United States or how long they were detained, saying only in its statement that the boy had been "previously apprehended" by its agents.

Alamogordo is about 145 kilometres from the U.S.-Mexico border at El Paso, Texas.

Ruben Garcia, director of El Paso's Annunciation House, said Tuesday he had no reason to believe his shelter had served the family, but was waiting for further details about what happened.

A CBP spokesperson declined to elaborate Tuesday, but said details will be released shortly.

'This is inexcusable'

A Guatemalan girl, 7, died earlier this month after being apprehended by border agents. The body of Jakelin Caal was returned to her family's remote village Monday for burial Tuesday.

Large numbers of Guatemalan families have been arriving in recent weeks in New Mexico, often in remote and dangerous parts of the desert. Jakelin and her father were with 161 other people when they were apprehended.

CBP announced new notification procedures in response to Jakelin's death, which was not revealed until several days later.

A photo of Jakelin Caal, a seven-year-old girl who died in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, is seen during a service at her home village of San Antonio Secortez, Guatemala, on Monday. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Democratic members of Congress and immigration advocates sharply criticized CBP's handling of the death and questioned whether border agents could have prevented it by calling for an evacuation by air ambulance sooner.

Xochitl Torres Small, a Democrat who will represent the district starting in January, called for a thorough and transparent investigation into the children's deaths and more medical resources along the border.

"This is inexcusable," she said in a statement Tuesday. "Instead of immediately acting to keep children and all of us safe along our border, this administration forced a government shutdown over a wall."

A spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican whose district along the U.S.-Mexico border includes Alamogordo, could not be reached Tuesday.

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