A Guatemalan Toddler Died Weeks After Being Released From Border Patrol Custody
The latest in a slew of tragic incidents at the United States border with Mexico happened on Tuesday night, when a Guatemalan toddler died after being released from United States custody, according to The Washington Post. A Customs and Border Protection official tells Bustle that the 2-year-old boy and his family were apprehended at the border on April 3, and they were released from CBP custody on April 8 with an order to appear in court when summoned, after the boy's mother told U.S. officials that he was sick and he was taken to a hospital. He then passed away after spending several weeks in the hospital, the Post reported.
This is now the fourth Guatemalan child to die after having crossed the United States border and been picked up by U.S. officials since December 2018, CNN reported. Seven-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin died of a bacterial infection in December, and 8-year-old Felipe Alonzo-Gomez died of the flu later that month. The third was 16-year-old Juan de León Gutierrez, who died of unknown causes in April, according to Time.
At the moment, Guatemala is the country from where the greatest number of migrants are arriving, according to Reuters. While the toddler has not yet been identified, Guatemalan consular official Tekandi Paniagua told Reuters that the boy "had health problems because of the conditions in which they were traveling, high fevers and difficulty breathing."
The boy and his mother initially crossed the border near El Paso, Texas, soon after acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan appeared at a press conference in the city to say that there is an "unprecedented humanitarian and border crisis all along our southwest border, and nowhere has that crisis manifested more acutely than here in El Paso," as CBS News wrote. He also said that the migrant situation had reached a "breaking point," as The Hill noted.
Guatemalan officials have also made an effort to stop people from making the journey north, per The Washington Post.
“We have reiterated the message that trips to the United States, in the condition in which the Guatemalan families are undertaking them, is highly dangerous,” Paniagua told the Post in a statement. “We’ve seen four cases in a row of children who have lost their lives in this way.”
In response to the first two migrant children dying in December, Congress held hearings and immigration authorities instituted expanded medical checks for children who had been apprehended, according to CNN. CBP also told CNN that the agency had started a review of their policies when it came to taking care of children, both at intake and afterwards. According to The Washington Post, it's not uncommon for migrants to arrive at the border in poor health, and now the Department of Homeland Security has required that medical professionals triage migrants as they arrive.
The situation at the border, and the Trump administration's handling of it, has drawn fierce criticism, from the deaths of these and other children to the zero tolerance policy that led to hundreds of family separations. Given the tough conditions in Guatemala and its neighboring countries, as Time wrote, it's unlikely that the flow of migrants will stop any time soon.