Just days after a 16-year-old from Guatemala entered the U.S. and was detained by U.S. officials, he died in federal custody at a Texas hospital on Wednesday, sparking outrage among immigration advocates denouncing President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, Newsweek reports.
The 16-year-old, whose identity has not been released yet, came to the U.S. unaccompanied and was detained by border patrol agents near El Paso, Texas on April 19. He was then taken to an Office of Refugee Resettlement shelter almost 700 miles away in Brownsville and began “the process of family reunification” before being hospitalized and treated in intensive care for a severe brain infection, according to both U.S. and Guatemalan officials.
In a statement to Newsweek, Evelyn Stauffer, a spokesperson for the Health and Human Service Department Administration for Children and Families, said that the teenager raised no health concerns upon arriving at the shelter on Saturday, April 20. But the following morning, he was “noticeably ill, including fever, chills and a headache."
Officials brought him to an emergency hospital department that day, where he was treated and released. However, he did not show signs of improvement and was taken to another hospital before being rushed to the intensive care unit at a children’s hospital in Driscoll, Texas.
He was there for several days, and at one point, he received an emergency surgery to “relieve pressure in his skull,” according to Newsweek. Following the operation, his condition did not improve, and he died within the following days. Officials had arranged for the 16-year-old’s brother to visit while he was in hospital care.
In response to the news of the 16-year-old migrant’s death, immigration advocacy organization Families Belong Together criticized Trump for allowing now the death of a third immigrant child in U.S. custody over the past five months. In December, seven-year-old and eight-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin and Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, respectively, both from Guatemala, died while under the care of American officials.
“The Trump administration turned this sixteen-year-old boy's life into a devastating statistic: the third child to die in the care of US immigration authorities in the past five months alone," said Families Belong Together chair Jess Morales Rocketto.
"Too many children have lost their lives in the custody of our government," Morales Rocketto said. "President Trump should be ashamed. Family separation and his cruel immigration agenda are literally killing children.”