Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement on the death of an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy that all minors currently in Border Patrol custody have received medical screenings, adding that no additional examinations would be done.
“This tragedy, the death of a child in government custody is deeply concerning and heartbreaking,” Nielsen wrote in the statement. “In the last 24 hours, I have … directed a series of additional actions to care for those who enter our custody.”
The agency said the boy died in government custody late on Monday, adding that a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl had also died earlier this month, hours after she had been taken into the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“Moving forward, all children will receive a more thorough hands-on assessment at the earliest possible time post apprehension — whether or not the accompanying adult has asked for one,” Nielsen wrote in the Wednesday statement.
Meanwhile, Representative Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to become the new House speaker, said Congress will investigate border deaths of children, adding that Democrats want the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general to investigate the death of the 8-year-old boy.
“Democrats call on Homeland Security’s Inspector General to immediately open an investigation,” she stressed in a statement. “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.”
Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan noted Wednesday that an investigation has already been opened.
Nielsen further confirmed in her statement that six other migrants, apart from the two children, died in Customs and Border Protection custody during fiscal year 2018. She also wrote that she had asked Mexico to look into the causes of illnesses on its side of the border and to assist those in shelters “needed.”