After child deaths in Border Patrol custody, lawmakers look to improve medical care for migrants

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nexstar) — Last year, three children died in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody, prompting questions about medical care in the agency’s southwest border facilities.

The House Committee on Homeland Security is taking a look at what CBP needs to do to make sure no more children die in U.S. custody.

“A 7-year-old girl named Jakelin and an 8-year-old boy named Felipe,” U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, said.

In this Dec. 15, 2018, file photo, Domingo Caal Chub, 61, holds a smartphone displaying a photo of his granddaughter, Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, in Raxruha, Guatemala. The 7-year-old girl died in a Texas hospital, two days after being taken into custody by border patrol agents in a remote stretch of New Mexico desert. Homeland Security’s watchdog found no wrongdoing or misconduct by immigration officials in the deaths of the girl and another boy last December (AP Photo/Oliver de Ros, File)
This Dec. 12, 2018 file photo provided by Catarina Gomez shows her stepbrother Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8, near her home in Yalambojoch, Guatemala. An autopsy report confirmed Wednesday, April 3, 2019, that Gomez Alonzo, an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy who died while in custody of the U.S. Border Patrol on Christmas Eve, succumbed to a flu infection — one of two deaths of Central American children in December that drew attention to the plight of migrant families at the southern border. (Catarina Gomez via AP, File)

The Mississippi Democratic read the names of the five children who have died in Border Patrol’s custody since 2018.

“There is something seriously wrong with this picture,” he said.

Dr. Roger Mitchell, Jr., is the chief medical examiner in Washington, D.C. He said he’s examined the autopsy reports, and each death could have been prevented.

“There are many missed opportunities to provide life-saving care to this child,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell blames overcrowding and lack of personnel at the detention facilities.

Last year, Congress approved $112 million in emergency funding to help the Border Patrol care for migrants, according to Thompson, but he says the agency used that money elsewhere.

“To instead buy jet skis, dirt bikes and even dog food,” he said.

Thompson says the Border Patrol needs to be held accountable, but U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., defended the agency.

“Record numbers of families and children crossed our border last year. Groups of hundreds to thousands of migrants came across it at once,” Rogers said.

Rogers says CPB has been overwhlemed.

“Until Congress takes action to address the root cause of last year’s crisis, it’s only a matter of time before another one occurs,” he said.

Rogers says if Congress wants to save lives, it should work with the president to secure the border.

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