A Tragic Christmas For Migrants

In New Mexico, a 2nd migrant child has died in U.S. custody and migrants were left at a bus stop in El Paso, Texas to fend for themselves.

Mariel Mendez, 28, sits with her son at a park in downtown El Paso on Christmas Eve 2018. The asylum-seekers from Honduras, who ate food provided by volunteers, were part of a group of hundreds ICE released at a bus station. (Julián Aguilar/The Texas Tribune)

Mariel Mendez, 28, sits with her son at a park in downtown El Paso on Christmas Eve 2018. The asylum-seekers from Honduras, who ate food provided by volunteers, were part of a group of hundreds ICE released at a bus station. (Julián Aguilar/The Texas Tribune)

On Christmas Eve, a second asylum-seeking child died while in custody of U.S. Government authorities in New Mexico. An 8-year-old boy, Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, from Guatemala, was with his father. The boy became ill and died while in custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in New Mexico.

Earlier this month, the death of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin sparked outcry, after she died of dehydration and shock while in custody of U.S. Border Patrol. Jakelin was also from Guatemala, traveling with her father, and seeking asylum in the U.S. After showing symptoms, she did not receive medical care for 90 minutes.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security appropriations subcommittee, said of Felipe’s death in an interview with The Washington Post, “The reality is that a detention center is no place for a child, particularly a sick child. When that child was determined to be ill, had a 103-degree fever, why they would send that child back to a detention center, which is really not fit for even a well child?’”

On the morning of Christmas Eve, Claudia Maquin, Jakelin’s mother, tearfully reunited with the body of her lifeless daughter. As Reuters reported: “Under a gray sky, friends and relatives filed in to Jakelin’s wake in the thatched hut of her grandfather. In a laminated white coffin, her small body was laid out clothed in a blue sweater and a red coverlet emblazoned with bears.”

At the Tornillo, Texas, tent city where more than 2,700 minors remain held in custody, Beto O’Rourke joined activists on Christmas Eve who were caroling for the migrant children. “These children have done nothing wrong,” said activist Martin Bates. “They should be with their families.”

Aura Bogado, journalist for Reveal, has been reporting on immigration and asylum-seeking children for more than ten years. She and Reveal reported that “nearly 15,000 unaccompanied minors currently are detained in the U.S.; they’re held in places ranging from tent cities to trailers and shelters, some of which have a history of mistreatment, including forced drugging, sexual assault and physical abuse.”

ProPublica has gathered hundreds of police reports detailing allegations of sexual assaults in immigrant children’s shelters.

On Wednesday, soon-to-be Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said in a statement, “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.”

On Christmas Eve, ICE dumped hundreds of asylum-seekers at a bus station parking lot in El Paso — without notifying shelters, leaving migrating children and families with nowhere to go.

Meanwhile, President Trump, whose hardline anti-immigration policies have been largely blamed for the suffering for migrants at the border, continued to vow not to reopen the government until his border wall is funded.

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News // Human Rights / Immigration / Migrants