Death of second migrant child reignites concerns over U.S. border policies
After the deaths of 7-year old Jakelin Caal and 8-year old Felipe Gomez Alonzo in federal custody, national concerns over the health and rights of migrant children have been reignited. While Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen sent U.S. medical corps to provide additional health screenings for migrant children, the federal government still refuses to hold border patrol accountable for deaths in detention.
Jakelin Caal died on Dec. 8 due to dehydration a day after she was taken into custody by border patrol. Felipe Gomez Alonzo died on Dec. 24th after he and his father were taken into custody for six days, which exceeds the 72 hour Border Patrol measure. According to federal officials, a total of six adults died in federal custody this year.
The Washington Post reports House Democrats plan a probe into the conditions of migrant children in Customs and Border Protection custody. House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) requested from Congress via a statement to “ask serious questions about what happened and who bears responsibility.”
Now, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has sent U.S. medical corps to border patrol facilities where migrant children are being held to screen for health issues. Nielsen has also inquired the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate infections illnesses in migrant shelters.
Still, Nielsen places blame on the migrants themselves. The Washington Post reports Nielsen said in a statement, “I once again ask — beg — parents to not place their children at risk by taking a dangerous journey north.”
Many pointed out that the danger Nielsen referred to is caused by the very government forcing migrants and their children in unsafe shelters.
Heidi Altman, policy director at the National Immigrant Justice Center, told the Washington Post, “The choices that are made at the top and the bottom are all coming together to create this tragedy.”
Leah Chavla, a policy adviser at the Women’s Refugee Commission, told the Post that the government should make sure there is “someone there who has the credentials, who knows how to work with children who have been survivors of trauma and other circumstances.”