Guatemalan Toddler Dies in U.S. Custody, Report Says

Jose Luis Gonzalez  Reuters

Jose Luis Gonzalez Reuters

Last month, a 16-year-old boy died in a children's hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, less than two weeks after he was detained and transferred to a child shelter contracted by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. US officials say the boy and his family were never even in custody despite agents "releasing" the family on April 8th.

The death comes after three Guatemalan minors died in U.S. custody since December, during the biggest surge of migrants on the U.S. -Mexico border in a decade. According to Guatemala's foreign ministry, the teenager entered the US near El Paso on April 19 and moved to a shelter in Brownsville the next day.

"We have reiterated the message that trips to the United States, in the condition in which the Guatemalan families are undertaking them, is highly unsafe", Guatemala's Consul Tekandi Paniagua said in a statement.

The unidentified toddler was traveling with his mother when they were taken into custody at a border crossing, The Washington Post reported, citing the Guatemalan Consulate.

Central American migrants wait to be taken into custody after crossing into the United States from Mexico on February 1, 2019, in El Paso, Texas.

The child's mother told border agents that her child was ill on April 6th.

"He had health problems because of the conditions in which they were travelling, high fevers and difficulty breathing", Paniagua said. Eight-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo died on Christmas day. The deaths of migrant children have prompted USA immigration authorities to increase medical checks of minors taken into custody along the country's southwest border. More than 58,000 family members were apprehended.

The first two deaths prompted congressional hearings, and immigration authorities have ordered an increase of medical checks for children in their custody.

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