Guatemalan Boy Becomes Second Child to Die in US Custody in December

Last updated 12/26/2018 at 12:13 p.m. ET.

An 8-year-old Guatemalan migrant boy died early on Christmas Day after being detained by U.S. border agents, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said, the second migrant child to die in U.S. detention this month.

The boy and his father were in CBP custody on Monday when a Border Patrol agent noticed the child showing signs of illness, CBP said in a statement. The father and son were taken to the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico, where the boy was diagnosed with a common cold and fever, and eventually released by hospital staff.

But later that evening, the boy began vomiting and was transferred back to the hospital. He died there early on Tuesday, CBP said, adding that the official cause of death was not known.

The father and son were not identified, and the agency said it would release more details “as available and appropriate.” Guatemalan officials have been notified of the death, CBP said.

The boy’s death followed the death in early December of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal, also from Guatemala. She died after being detained along with her father by U.S. border agents in a remote part of New Mexico.

After the second death, the CBP announced it was developing several policy changes late Tuesday.

It will conduct secondary medical checks on all children in its custody, with a focus on those under 10, the agency said in a release.

The agency will also work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to improve custody options, such as better transportation to Family Residential Centers and supervised release, and working with non-governmental agencies for housing.

“This is a tragic loss. On behalf of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, our deepest sympathies go out to the family,” CBP Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan said in the release.

Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry said its consul in Phoenix was seeking to interview the boy’s father, to whom it pledged to give all necessary consular assistance and protection. In a statement, the ministry said it also requested medical reports to clarify the cause of death.

According to the ministry, the boy and his father entered the United States via El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 18 and were transferred to a border patrol station in Alamogordo on Dec. 23.

The Trump administration has tried to deter people from crossing the border between ports of entry illegally to seek asylum, while at the same time restricting legal access to official ports of entry. That has created a months-long wait for asylum applicants, including those who came as part of a large caravan of Central Americans this year.

Jakelin Caal’s funeral was being held in her family’s village in Guatemala.

Her death fueled criticism of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies from Democrats and migrant advocates. The Trump administration said Caal’s death showed the danger of her journey and the family’s decision to cross the border illegally.

That death is being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General, which looks into accusations of misconduct by the agency’s employees.

CBP said on Tuesday that the Guatemalan boy’s death is being reviewed by the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility, and that the Inspector General has been notified of the death. It was not immediately known if the watchdog would open an investigation.

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Additional reporting by Sofia Menchu in San Antonio Secortez, Guatemala, and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Leslie Adler, Nick Macfie and Chizu Nomiyama)


  1. This people have many diseases ,I live very close to the Tijuana and we know they have tuberculosis , chicken pox and aids for sure , not all of them of course but enough that we fear an epidemic , they traveled with sick people so it is not the American Goverment’s responsibility to ” cure ” and fix existing health problems . The one’s that are responsible is Pueblo sin Fronteras that organized this caravans , and the parents themselves . Those are the responsible parties.

    1. Do you work in the medical facility where they are tested? How did you obtain their test results. You appear sane, so I am confident that you would not “fear an epidemic” without positive test results of the diseases you fear You won’t get any up votes if you don’t edit your comment to include George Soros as a responsible party—Loads of conspiracisists here.

    2. Nancy I’m giving you an “up” because I can.

      What a certain screeching harpy refuses to research or admit is the recent outbreaks of drug-resistant TB, mumps, measle, etc. that have occurred in “sanctuaries” as a result of illegal immigration and morons who won’t vaccinate their children. I’ll even make her search easier. Look up OR.

  2. Oh please. Now taxpayers have to foot the bill because parents illegally bring their children to break into the US and don’t take care of them because they were told the US would give them whatever they wanted? Where are the caravan organizers? Why aren’t they giving these children physicals?

  3. Leave your child in a hot car, go to jail for murder. Leave your child home alone and something happens, fire, drowns in the tub, you go to jail. Drag you sick child across the border of the USA after not having food or water for your child for days, after traveling thousands of miles in the midst of people who are physically sick, and rapist, drug addicts, child sex and just human smugglers, blame the USA and sue. Sounds about right!

  4. Thanks Reuters for your opinion piece. What responsibility does the father bear in this? No mention of the mother. The first child who died was accompanied only by her father. Supposedly dehydration but food and water was available according to other detainees. Now investigation into medical treatment. While senior citizens here struggle to pay for medical care.

    1. The 7 yr old girl died of sepsis. She was very sick before she got here as was the case with this boy. Concerning to me is that some of the illnesses being brought over are dangerous to our population.

      1. Yes , you are correct , that is what we are fearing here in San Diego.

      2. Where are you getting the information on the cause of death? It seem that no one else, including the doctors and ME, knows the cause of death.

  5. Does that section of wall shown look really dilapidated and in need of replacement? Nah. Install mines.

  6. I’m making $86 an hour working from home. I was shocked when my neighbour told me she was averaging $95 but I see how it works now.I feel so much freedom now that I’m my own boss.
    This is what I do……….

  7. How to tell partisan, BS, agenda-driven fake news:

    When was the last time ANY news outlet said, “child dies in hospital custody” (this one did) Would it have been better to let him die on the border frontier?

    Or “hundreds of thousands of children are murdered each year with taxpayer funding”? How about “children die in school custody while cowardly deputy hides outside and no other means of defense were available”?

    See how this spins?

    1. Good Point! When was the last time a news outlet said, “Hundreds of thousands of children murdered at Planned Parenthood at tax payer expense while in the custody of at least one parent”?

  8. A 7-yr. old dies in custody because her father failed to provide food or water for days.
    Incubation periods say this kid was sick long before he entered CBP custody.

    plus: he didn’t survive to spread illness among citizens.

    minus: the expense of hospitalizing and shipping him back will be borne by taxpayers.

    The cost of two .22LR bullets (purchased in bulk)? Negligible.

    1. The 7 year old was a girl. She was whisked out of the U.S. quite quickly and returned to Guatemala and is now buried. I am sure that it was at U.S. taxpayer expense that she was returned to Guatemala.

  9. Makes you think are these people carrying some unknown lethal disease because I bighi doubt CBP is murdering random children or torturing them.

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