The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) internal watchdog found no wrongdoing by immigration officials in the death of two migrant children who died last year.
The two children died last December in Border Patrol (CBP) custody after they made the dangerous trek through Mexico to cross into the United States illegally. Jakelin Maquin died Dec. 8 of sepsis caused by a bacterial infection at age 7, while 8-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo died on Dec. 24, also from sepsis caused by a bacteria. The department launched investigations following their deaths.
In both cases, the watchdog stated that “the investigation found no misconduct or malfeasance by DHS personnel.”
The children’s deaths came at a time when the United States faced an unprecedented influx of illegal immigration at the southern border that had overwhelmed border facilities, resources, and the immigration system. There were 977,509 apprehensions of people deemed inadmissible along the southwest border in fiscal year 2019, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“We are still saddened by the tragic loss of these young lives, and we continue to bolster medical screenings and care at DHS facilities on the border,” a spokeswoman for Homeland Security told the Associated Press. “The men and women of Border Patrol are committed to the highest standards of professionalism and care.”
Both children were traveling with a parent at the time of their deaths. Maquin was apprehended with her father at Antelope Wells, New Mexico, on Dec. 6, 2018. The initial screening revealed no evidence of health issues, the department said at the time. During a 90-mile bus trip to another CBP facility, the child became sick with a fever, began vomiting, and started having seizures.
Upon arrival at the facility, the child was treated by medical staff, then flown to a hospital where she was pronounced dead the next day.
Meanwhile, the other child was apprehended with his father near El Paso, Texas, and transported to a CBP checkpoint at Alamogordo, New Mexico, to await family placement. He started exhibiting signs of illness on Dec. 23 and was transported to the nearest hospital for evaluation and treatment.
He was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection, prescribed medicine, and discharged. The child’s condition improved briefly then spiraled downward. He was then transported to a hospital where he became unresponsive and died.
The number of border crossings into the United States from Mexico has declined in recent months as a result of some Trump administration policies, such as the expansion of the Migrant Protection Protocols. Last week, the Trump administration announced another push to control the number of asylum applications by expanding the number of crimes that would disqualify an immigrant from seeking asylum, in a proposed rule.
The proposal, announced by the Department of Justice and the DHS on Dec. 18, aims to help “devote more resources to the adjudication of asylum cases filed by non-criminal aliens.” It also appears to be the administration’s attempt to address a backlog of active cases that are currently being processed in the system.
The proposed rule adds an extra seven categories of crimes that would make immigrants ineligible from receiving protection in the United States. Some of the crimes include a felony under federal or state law, alien smuggling, illegal re-entry, and other misdemeanors. The proposal will still need to go through a public commenting period—which will end on Jan. 21, 2020—before it can be implemented.