The death of 7 year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, a Guatemalan child who was under custody of U.S Customs and Border Patrol, caused outrage after learning that the child died only two days after she was detained with her father at the U.S.-Mexico border. On Christmas Eve, a second migrant child, Felipe Gomez Alonzo, passed away with flu like symptoms.
Jan Bejar is an immigration lawyer based in San Diego. He said the first death should have been considered a red flag.
“If a first child died, then, why did they not take the necessary precautions,” Bejar said. “It wasn’t until a second child passed away when they said, oh, we should take better care of these children.”
In light of these deaths, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol made changes in its regulations to make sure this tragedy does not repeat itself. The agency has pledged to conduct secondary medical screenings on children under 10 years old. They are requesting the support of federal health agency and assured they will review all custody options available.
Adriana Jasso is a representative from Comité de Amigos, a non-profit organization in San Diego that aims to protect immigrant rights.
“Policies in the U.S., Honduras and El Salvador have put people in desperate situations,” she said. “This only shows we have a government, a president who doesn’t understand humanity.”
According to the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator, the agency performing an autopsy on Felipe Gomez-Alonzo, “results of nasal and lung swabs have tested positive for influenza B.”
“While this result indicates that the child had influenza, determining an accurate cause of death requires further evaluation of other laboratory specimens and interpreting the findings in the context of the symptoms and autopsy findings,” the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator said in a statement.
So far, there have been 48,287 family units apprehended this year at the Southwest border, which is a significant increase from the number of families apprehended last year.
The migrant crisis does not end there. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has released hundreds of immigrants in downtown El Paso. Local housing organizations have said that they were not notified this influx of asylum seekers would be left stranded.
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar from El Paso said the area needs more resources to help these families.
“We need the help of the Department of Health and Human Services, but in the meantime we have many of doctors and clinics in El Paso that are ready to help,” Escobar said.
It has been up to organizations and neighborhood groups to collect food, water and monetary donations to help these immigrants reconnect with their families living in the U.S.