A 16-year-old unaccompanied Guatemalan child died in U.S. government custody in Texas on Tuesday, according to BuzzFeed. The unidentified boy is the third child to die in U.S. custody since last December.
On April 20th, the boy was brought by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to a shelter that contracts with the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Customs and Border Protection says it didn’t notice any health problems, and the boy didn’t reference any health issues when he was brought to the shelter, according to Health and Human Services spokesperson Evelyn Stauffer.
The next morning, Stauffer says the boy became “noticeably ill” with a a fever, chills, and a headache. He was brought to the hospital that day, on April 21st, where was treated and subsequently brought back to the shelter.
“The minor’s health did not improve after being transferred back to the shelter so on the morning of April 22, 2019, the minor was taken to another hospital emergency department via ambulance,” Stauffer said in a statement. “Later that day, the minor was transferred to a children’s hospital in Texas and was treated for several days in the hospital’s intensive care unit. Following several days of intensive care, the minor passed away at the hospital on April 30, 2019.”
The cause of death has not been determined. ORR is investigating the case.
The child’s brother and officials from the Guatemalan consulate visited him while he was in the hospital. His family in Guatemala were apparently kept up to date on his status.
“This boy deserved better,” Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon said in an email to BuzzFeed. “This should never have happened and there must be a full investigation into the circumstances of this young man’s death, followed by immediate action to ensure other children do not suffer the same fate.”
Merkley told BuzzFeed he believes every child who enters U.S. custody should have a “substantial medical exam by a medical professional” within an hour of coming into U.S. care, and another more extensive exam when they enter a shelter.
“I’m not at all satisfied that rigorous protocols are in place,” Merkley added. “We must do much better.”