Senator Warren Calls on Homeland Security Inspector General to Investigate the Death of an 8-Year-Old Boy in Custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Published January 2, 2019

Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, an 8-year old Guatemalan boy, died on Christmas Eve while in CBP custody.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Inspector General (IG) John V. Kelly asking for an investigation of the death on Christmas Eve of Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, an 8-year old Guatemalan boy held for six days in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody.

Alonzo-Gomez is the second Indigenous child from Guatemala to die within 17 days in December while in CBP custody.

“This news is horrifying and especially troubling because Felipe was the second child this month to die after being apprehended at the border and placed in U.S. custody,” wrote Senator Warren. “I wrote to you earlier this month to express my interest in your ongoing investigation of the death of Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, the 7-year-old girl who died while in CBP custody on December 8, 2018.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

The letter follows Senator Warren’s December 17, 2018 letter to the DHS IG requesting a rigorous investigation of the death of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl named Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin. In the wake of Felipe’s death – the second confirmed death of a child this month on CBP watch, the Senator requests that the IG expand the current ongoing investigation to include the circumstances of Felipe’s death.

According to press reports, Felipe died twelve minutes before Christmas at a hospital in Alamogordo, New Mexico. He was detained on December 18, 2018, transferred to the El Paso Border Patrol Station and then the Alamogordo Border Patrol Station, and brought to the hospital on December 24 “after a Border Patrol agent saw what appeared to be signs of sickness.” He was held for observation, and then released later that day with a prescription for an antibiotic. But he became nauseous and vomited that evening, was returned to the hospital, and pronounced dead at 11:48 PM.

“It is unconscionable that children seeking asylum are dying in U.S. custody,” Senator Warren wrote. “We do not yet know the full circumstances of Felipe’s death, and it is urgent that your office determine how and why he died in CBP custody, and whether CBP or any other Administration officials bear any responsibility for the circumstances leading to his death.”

The Senator also requested that the Inspector General examine the new set of policies and procedures for detention of migrant children that the CBP announced following Felipe’s death, and the number of children who died or suffered serious illnesses or injuries while in CBP custody. Senator Warren also raises concerns about December 20, 2018 testimony from DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that she did not have “an exact figure” on the number of other deaths of individuals in U.S. custody.

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