Autopsy: Guatemalan Boy Who Died in US Custody Had Flu


photo of doctors after successful surgery
photo of doctors after successful surgery

An autopsy has revealed that an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy had the flu when he died while in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody in the southwestern U.S. state of New Mexico.

The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator said in a statement Thursday that the results of nasal and lung swabs on Felipe Gomez Alonzo “tested positive for influenza B.”

“While this result indicates that the child had influenza, determining an accurate cause of death requires further evaluation,” the statement said.

Alonzo, who died on Christmas Eve, is the second Guatemalan child to die this month while in U.S. custody.

Jakelin Caal, a 7-year-old girl, died Dec. 8 also while in the custody of the same division of the CBP.

Both children crossed into the U.S. with their fathers who hoped to find work, which does not exist across much of Guatemala.

It is not clear how Jakelin became ill. She was apparently well when agents arrested her and her father, but became ill on a bus ride to a border patrol station where she arrived with a fever.

U.S. agents say she likely had little to eat and drink before arriving at the U.S. border, however, her father said that was not true.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, has called for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing early next year regarding the deaths of the two children.

In a letter to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, Feinstein requested a hearing “on the care and treatment of children in the custody of Customs and Border Protection.” Graham is set to chair the committee in the new year.

Feinstein, the highest ranking Democrat on the committee, called the deaths of the children “heartbreaking incidents” and said the Judiciary Committee is “uniquely situated to examine these issues.”

In the letter, Feinstein called on CBP to ensure that children are released from detention within 72 hours as required by law. She also demanded the agency account for the need to communicate with detainees in their native languages and develop standards of care in consultation with pediatricians and child welfare experts.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Wednesday said all children in Border Patrol custody had received medical screenings and that she had directed a series of additional actions to care for those in U.S. custody.

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