Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is visiting El Paso, Texas, where an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy was detained with his father before dying in US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody.
The purpose of the visit is to see how the agency will conduct medical screenings and review conditions at Border Patrol stations following the death of two migrant children under the age of 10 in the last few weeks.
Ms Nielsen is also expected to meet with emergency medical technicians, medical professionals and local officials. The DHS Secretary will also be travelling to Yuma, Arizona on Saturday. She will also be touring several Border Patrol stations near the US-Mexico border.
Her trip comes four days after the death of 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo. Border agents sent the boy, accompanied by his father, to a New Mexico hospital after he experienced vomiting, coughing, and a high fever. The autopsy revealed that the child suffered from the flu.
Ms Nielsen has called the boy’s death “deeply concerning and heartbreaking,” and requested medical help from other government agencies.
In response to his death, CBP announced new policy changes to prevent further child deaths, which includes conducting secondary medical checks on all children under CBP care and custody with special attention to children under the age of 10.
Mr Alonso is the second child to die under US immigration custody in December.
Jakelin Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old Guatemalan migrant girl, died from sepsis shock on 8 December at an El Paso children’s hospital after also being detained with her father.
The child was preparing to travel by bus to another Border Patrol station in New Mexico. Several hours later she started vomiting and showed symptoms of severe dehydration. Her autopsy revealed she had a failed liver and swollen brain.
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