Guatemalan teen boy is latest migrant child to die in U.S. custody

A 16-year-old boy apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol was “found unresponsive” Monday morning in the facility where he was being held, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Border Patrol officials said the cause of death is not known

The boy, whose name has not been released, was taken into custody after crossing the southern border in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley on May 13, according to the agency. He was held at a processing facility for six days before being transferred Sunday to a Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas, where he died.

Border Patrol said the boy was due to be moved into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which oversees shelters for migrant children, but that transfer did not happen. 

“He was found unresponsive this morning during a welfare check,” the agency said in a statement Monday.

The agency did not say why the teen was transferred to the Weslaco Border Patrol station Sunday. It is also not clear why he was held for a week without being moved to ORR custody.

Acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders said in a statement that the agency “is committed to the health, safety and humane treatment of those in our custody.”  

“The men and women of U.S. Customs and Border Protection are saddened by the tragic loss of this young man and our condolences are with his family,” Sanders said. The agency said the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General has been notified, as well as the Guatemalan government, and members of Congress.

The boy is the fifth Guatemalan child to die since December after being apprehended at the U.S. border.

In the most recent instance, a 2-and-a-half-year-old who was apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso in April died on May 14. A Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official familiar with the case told CBS News the family encountered Border Patrol agents at Paso Del Norte Bridge on April 3. Three days later, the child was hospitalized for an unspecified illness. The family was given a notice to appear in court and was released on their own recognizance April 8.

Customs and Border Protection announces changes after 2nd migrant child death

In another recent case, a 16-year-old boy died April 30 after being apprehended by border patrol agents near El Paso on April 19. The boy, Juan de León Gutiérrez, was sent to a Brownsville, Texas, facility for unaccompanied migrant children, where staff noticed a few days later that he appeared ill. He died nine days in a hospital bed. The Guatemalan Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Gutiérrez died from complications from an infection in his brain’s frontal lobe.

There were also two children’s deaths in December. A 7-year-old girl, Jakelin Caal Maquin, died of a bacterial infection Dec. 8 after being in Border Patrol custody. And an 8-year-old boy, Felipe Gómez Alonzo, died on Christmas Eve.

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