The Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has completed two investigations into the deaths of a 7-year-old and an 8-year-old, both from Guatemala, who died in U.S. Border Patrol custody in December 2018.
It found “no misconduct or malfeasance by DHS personnel,” the agency announced Friday.
The deaths of both children sparked public outcry and protests. Advocates, attorneys and the children’s families later identified the children as 8-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo and 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin. There have been other children who have also died in immigration custody, or shortly after their release — leading at least one mother to sue the Administration.
In the case of the 7-year-old, OIG says the child was ill with a fever and was vomiting and seizing while Border Patrol transported her and her father 90 miles to a facility in Lordsburg, N.M., on Dec. 7, 2018. When the girl and her father arrived in Lordsburg, emergency medical personnel began treating her and flew the girl to a hospital while her father followed by car driven by Border Patrol.
OIG says a state medical examiner’s autopsy determined the child died at the hospital the next day of natural causes due to “sequelae of Streptococcal sepsis.” Streptococcus can cause a variety of disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control, including strep throat, scarlet fever and acute rheumatic fever, common in children between 5 and 15 years old.
A few days later, on Dec. 18, an 8-year-old boy and his father were apprehended near El Paso, Texas. On Dec. 24, after being transported to a checkpoint in Alamogordo, N.M., to await placement, an agent noticed the child looked sick and staff transported the boy and his father to a nearby hospital. After being diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection, the child was discharged and sent to a Border Patrol facility, which administered his prescriptions. Though the boy improved briefly, his condition eventually worsened and was taken again to a hospital. Upon arrival, the boy was unresponsive and pronounced dead.
Similarly, the OIG says the state medical examiner determined the boy died from “sepsis caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.” According to the CDC, Staphylococcus aureus bacteria is a type of germ that in most cases does not cause harm but sometimes can cause serious infections.
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