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Customs and Border Patrol announces policy changes following 8-year-old's death

Posted at 5:24 AM, Dec 26, 2018

In the wake of the death of an eight-year-old boy while in custody of Customs and Border Patrol, the agency announced a series of policy changes on Tuesday night.

First, Border Patrol is conducting secondary medical checks on all children in CBP care and custody with a particular focus on children under 10.

Second, Border Patrol is working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement on available surge options for transportation to Family Residential Centers and supervised release, CBP said. The agency also is reviewing other custody options to relieve capacity issues in the El Paso sector, such as working with nongovernmental organizations or local partners for temporary housing.

Third, CBP is considering options for medical assistance with other governmental partners, the agency said. That could include support from the Coast Guard, as well as possibly more aid from the Department of Defense, FEMA, Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Finally, CBP is reviewing its policies with a particular focus on the care and custody of children under 10, both at intake and beyond 24 hours in custody, the agency said.

On Tuesday, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) offered his condolences to the boy's family and called for a congressional investigation of the death.

"While the CBP notified Congress within 24 hours as mandated by law, we must ensure that we treat migrants and asylum-seekers with human dignity and provide the necessary medical care to anyone in the custody of the United States government," he said in the statement.

Guatemala's Foreign Ministry in a statement Tuesday also asked for an investigation and access to the boy's medical records.

The ministry said CBP alerted Guatemalan officials of the death on Tuesday. The boy arrived in El Paso with his father December 18 and was transferred to the Alamogordo CBP station on Sunday, according to the statement.

"The cause of death of the minor is still being investigated and the medical records have been requested in order to help clarify the cause of death," the statement said.

Guatemala's Consul General in Phoenix, Oscar Padilla Lam, met with the boy's father in Almagordo to "hear his version of the facts," according to the statement.

The Foreign Ministry said it will provide assistance and consular protection to the father and assume responsibility for the repatriation of the boy's remains.

The CBP news release says the Department of Homeland Security is experiencing "a dramatic increase in unaccompanied children and family units arriving at our borders illegally or without authorization," and per law, holds such individuals at federal facilities until they are deported or released into the United States with a notice to appear in court.

"During their period of detention they received medical screenings and further treatment as needed," it said.