U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents did everything they could to get medical help for two children who subsequently died in their custody, the CBP chief Kevin McAleenan said on Sunday.
McAleenan told ABC’s This Week it had been a decade since a child had died in the agency’s custody and the loss of two Guatemalan children in three weeks has been “absolutely devastating.”
Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8, was the second Guatemalan child to die this month while being held by U.S. authorities, sparking outrage from immigration advocates.
The boy’s death followed the death in early December of seven-year-old Jakelin Caal, also from Guatemala. She died after being detained along with her father by U.S. border agents in a remote part of New Mexico.
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“Our agents did everything they could, as soon as these children manifested symptoms of illness, to save their lives,” McAleenan said.
After the second death, the CBP said it will conduct secondary medical checks on all children in its custody, with a focus on those under 10.