House Democratic leaders on Wednesday vowed to hold hearings to investigate the deaths of two migrant children in U.S. custody in one month.
“The death of two children in U.S. custody is unconscionable,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials on Tuesday announced that Felipe Gómez Alonzo, an 8-year old Guatemalan boy, had died while in the agency’s custody.
Alonzo died after being hospitalized in New Mexico with flu-like symptoms, high fever, and vomiting. He was the second migrant child to die in CBP custody this month.
The boy had been detained with his father after crossing into the country without authorization.
“It is incumbent upon Congress to ask serious questions about what happened and who bears responsibility,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement.
Hoyer vowed to hold hearings on the children’s deaths when Democrats take control of the House next month. Hoyer said the hearings will also focus on “the conditions under which thousands of children are being held.”
“I pray for comfort for the families of these children who lost their lives, and I urge the Department of Homeland Security to provide Congress with all the information the public deserves to know and to take action to prevent such tragedies from recurring,” Hoyer said.
Felipe’s death prompted CBP to order medical checks on every child in custody.
A 7-year-old girl, Jakelin Caal Maquin, died earlier this month while in CBP custody.
“Democrats call on Homeland Security’s Inspector General to immediately open an investigation into Felipe Alzono-Gomez’s death,” Pelosi said. “The Congress will also investigate this tragedy and the heartbreaking death of Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, to seek justice and ensure that no other child is left to such a fate.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said Wednesday that the agency has more than 1,500 emergency medical technicians on staff and that officers are taking dozens of sick children to hospitals every day.
“This is an extraordinarily rare occurrence,” McAleenan told “CBS This Morning” of the recent child deaths. “It’s been more than a decade since we’ve had a child pass away anywhere in a CBP process, so this is just devastating for us.”
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), chairman-elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, called for a congressional investigation.
“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. Congress should investigate this tragedy upon its return to session,” Castro said in a statement.
“CBP must provide answers about how this happened, and create stronger protections for people in its custody. The loss of even one child is too great – these tragedies cannot continue,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), said Wednesday.