For a second time in a month, a migrant child died in U.S. custody after being detained near the southern border by immigration authorities. Felipe Alonzo Gomez, an 8-year-old boy from Guatemala, died in a New Mexico hospital late on Christmas Eve.
Like the December 8 death of Jakelin Caal, a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl, Felipe’s death has provoked an uproar among immigration advocates and Democratic lawmakers, who seized on the incident to continue their strong criticism of the Trump administration’s hardline immigration agenda.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Kevin McAleenan commissioner called the boy’s death a “tragic event” on Wednesday. The agency has ordered medical checks on every child, 10 and under, in its custody.
CBP released a timeline of the events it says ensued after Felipe and his father, Agustin Gomez, were detained near El Paso on Dec. 18. Before dying on Monday night, Felipe spent a week in America.
Felipe and his father were apprehended by border patrol agents near El Paso early in the afternoon for illegally crossing into the U.S. In the evening, Felipe and his father were transferred to the Paso del Norte port of entry.
CBP said the boy and his father were provided food and water.
After two days in the port of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border, Felipe and his father were transferred to a Border Patrol station in El Paso. There, the Guatemalan child and his father were provided food and water, according to CBP.
Late at night, Felipe and his father were transferred to the Border Patrol station in Alamogordo, New Mexico, because of overcrowding at the El Paso station. The driving distance between both stations is approximately 88 miles.
Felipe and his father arrived at the Alamogordo station early in the morning, according to CBP, which said they were provided food and hygienic products.
Early in the morning, CBP filed a “placement request” for Felipe and his father to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) family placement inbox.
Later in the morning at 9:00 a.m., a CBP agent noticed Felipe was coughing and appeared to have “glossy eyes.” Thirty minutes later, the Guatemalan boy was transferred to Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, alongside his father. Hospital staff conducted several strep throat tests on Felipe, but diagnosed him with a common cold and gave him Tylenol to treat pain and fever, CBP said.
Felipe remained in the hospital for further observation after he was found to have a 103 degree fever. He was released, however, late in the afternoon and prescribed antibiotics. CBP transported the 8-year-old and his father to a Border Patrol checkpoint on Highway 70, where agents gave them a hot meal and provided Felipe a dose of the prescribed medication.
During the evening, Felipe experienced nausea and vomiting. CBP said Felipe’s father declined further medical attention because his son was feeling better. Late at night, at around 10:00 p.m., CBP said Felipe again appeared nauseous and “lethargic.” Because there was no EMT present, agents decided to transport Felipe and his father to the same hospital in Alamogordo.
On the ride to the hospital, Felipe vomited and lost consciousness. Felipe, his father and a CBP agent arrived at the hospital a little after 11:00 p.m. CBP said hospital staff were unable to revive Felipe, who was pronounced dead at 11:48 p.m.