8-Year-Old Migrant Boy Dies In U.S. Custody
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
An 8-year-old Guatemalan boy has died in U.S. custody in New Mexico. He and his father were migrants who had crossed into the United States. The boy had previously been treated at a hospital for symptoms of a cold and fever. NPR's Ina Jaffe is following this story from her base at NPR West. Hi, Ina.
INA JAFFE, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.
SHAPIRO: What more can you tell us about the circumstances of this 8-year-old boy's death?
JAFFE: Well, everything we know right now is from Customs and Border Protection. They say that, on December 24, a U.S. Border Patrol agent noticed that the child showed symptoms of illness, so the boy and his father were transferred to the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, N.M. And the child was released midafternoon with prescriptions for an antibiotic and ibuprofen.
But, later that night, he began vomiting and was transferred back to the medical center, where he died shortly after midnight this morning. According to Customs and Border Protection, the Guatemalan government has been notified and is in contact with the father and possibly other family members in Guatemala.
SHAPIRO: Do you know anything about how long the father and son had been detained or where they were being held? Anything like that?
JAFFE: No. These are among the many things we still don't know about this child's death. We emailed Customs and Border Protection, asking for some of this information. But they haven't gotten back to us.
Now, according to Guatemala's foreign ministry, the father and son entered the United States at El Paso, Texas, on December 18. Then, they were taken to the Border Patrol's Alamogordo station Sunday. That's about 90 miles away. But Customs and Border Protection hasn't confirmed that. They have promised a, quote, "independent and thorough review of the circumstances."
SHAPIRO: And this boy is the second child to die in Customs and Border Protection custody this month.
JAFFE: Right. A 7-year-old Guatemalan girl died of dehydration and shock less than two weeks ago. She and her father had crossed the border into New Mexico and been taken into custody about a week before she died. This case has prompted some members of Congress to call for an investigation.
SHAPIRO: And just take a step back for a moment because this death comes in the midst of a government shutdown that's been going on now. We're in its fourth day over the issue of border security.
JAFFE: Right. And it looks like President Trump is not budging on what he sees as a need for a border wall. He made some remarks about that today. It was before the news of this boy's death was released. He talked to reporters in the Oval Office after a teleconference with U.S. military troops to wish them merry Christmas. And the president suggested that the shutdown will last until the Democrats agree to increase funding for a border wall. Here's what he said.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I can't tell you when the government's going to be open. I can tell you it's not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they'd like to call it. I'll call it whatever they want.
JAFFE: And they being the Democrats, of course. And, Ari, this doesn't look like it's going to be settled really soon because the Senate doesn't even come back until Thursday.
SHAPIRO: And, of course, those remarks were this morning. And so that was before we learned about this child's death, which President Trump has not commented on, publicly. But, if he does, we will update the story. Ina Jaffe, thanks so much.
JAFFE: You're welcome.
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