An 8-year-old Guatemalan boy died early Tuesday in a New Mexico hospital. In response to the child's death, the second this month, Customs and Border Protection has ordered medical exams for all the children it holds in custody.
Government failed to serve migrant children — again
By Avideh Moussavian
The nation awoke Christmas morning to tragic news that, little more than a week after learning of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin’s death in U.S. custody, another child died while detained by Customs and Border Protection. According to CBP, Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8, had been in the custody of U.S. government officials for several days before initially being diagnosed with a common cold.
This is unconscionable and unacceptable. Yet, for experts and advocates, it is not surprising. For years, Border Patrol officials — using our tax dollars — have subjected immigrants to detention conditions that expert witnesses have decried as filthy and unfit for humans.
In June 2015, the National Immigration Law Center joined civil rights partners to sue the Tucson sector of CBP to demand humane conditions for those jailed in these facilities. We demanded medical screenings, adequate food and water, and other basic necessities. The fact that we needed to sue our government to force it to treat people with dignity is an outrage. No one belongs in a cage, but if the government is jailing children, providing all of them with timely and adequate medical care is the very least it should do.
Despite this, President Donald Trump is demanding billions of taxpayer dollars for his vanity wall, shutting down the government and forcing hundreds of thousands of workers to live without paychecks, all for an agency that fails the most basic tests of decency and humanity on a daily basis.
A design of our Steel Slat Barrier which is totally effective while at the same time beautiful! pic.twitter.com/sGltXh0cu9— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 21, 2018
We’ll keep using every tool at our disposal — both inside and outside the courtroom — to fight for justice and dignity for immigrants. And all of us, as taxpayers, have a say in how our money is spent. We should demand that the government be held accountable for how it spends our taxpayer dollars, and that not one penny more goes to agencies engaging in apparently abusive practices. President Trump has tweeted incessantly about his wall, but he has offered no thoughts about the children who died on his administration's watch.
The holiday season provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the wonders children bring into our world. Our government failed — again — in its most basic responsibility toward them. It is up to all of us to stop the culture of cruelty and demand that not one more dollar go to the abhorrent practice of targeting and jailing immigrants. We need accountability, not cages.
Avideh Moussavian is legislative director for National Immigration Law Center.
What others are saying
Eddie Scarry, Washington Examiner: "Thanks to the abundance of generosity of the American people, sick migrants are given medical care when they are caught crossing illegally. A wall and a serious enforcement policy designed to discourage illegal immigration would deter many or most crossers, aiming precisely to prevent those deaths in U.S. custody. The federal government is currently in a partial shutdown because Democrats refuse to put forward any meaningful proposals that will deter this exact type of incident from occurring again."
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, Congressional Hispanic Caucus statement: "The administration’s policy of turning people away from legal ports of entry, otherwise known as metering, is putting families and children in great danger. ... Many questions remain unanswered, including how many children have died in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody. With two deaths that we know about just in the last few weeks, Congress will continue to press the Department of Homeland Security until we get answers to all our questions.”
Scott Allen and Pamela McPherson, The Washington Post: "CBP officials and others working in the immigration system are not deliberately trying to harm children. But when the confinement of children is prioritized over care, risks already posed by conditions of detention foreseeably escalate. ... Children coming into the custody of the United States should be immediately screened for both physical and mental health problems by qualified health professionals. Children should be provided with humane care and treatment in a nurturing community setting. Only then should asylum and other legal procedures proceed."
What our readers are saying
Maybe these innocent children would be alive if they were home, rather than being dragged 2,500 miles by parents trying to illegally enter our country. The children are the ones who had to pay the penalty for the parents' actions.
— Margaret Nacorda-Kinney
I'm so proud that President Donald Trump is getting tough on hardened criminals like this 8-year-old boy.
— Mike Bates
They sent the child to the hospital twice. What more were they supposed to do? They did not withhold medical care.
— William Grantmyre, Jr.
There is no excuse for this. No child should ever die in U.S. custody while on U.S. soil. Ever. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen should be fired for this.
— Russ Bowers
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How many immigrant children need to die before border policies change?: Today's talker