The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has ordered a number of changes when caring for children under the age of 10, in the wake of the death of an 8-year old Guatemalan boy in U.S. custody.
Department of Homeland Security and Border Patrol officials Wednesday hosted a conference call with reporters and said they had completed new medical screenings of almost all the children in the care of the U.S. Border Patrol — one of the many changes officials are implementing after two children died this month.
WATCH: Medical Screenings Ordered After 2nd Migrant Child Dies in US Custody
Felipe Gomez Alonzo, the Guatemalan boy, died shortly before midnight on Dec. 24 — hours before a 7-year-old girl who died was laid to rest in her impoverished Guatemalan village.
DHS requests medical help
Border officials said, "Dependent upon the facility and the location, in some cases the medical screenings are conducted by individuals that are under contract support services to the Border Patrol."
In places at the U.S. southwest border sectors where no medical personnel are available, the screenings are done by returning migrant children to a medical facility for additional checkups or "utilizing our organic resources that consist of EMT paramedics."
DHS officials said they have asked for medical help from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Department of Defense, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among others. They did not say how many children are currently in CBP's custody.
During the conference call, DHS officials also explained the circumstances of the death of 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo.
Signs of 'potential illness'
Officials said while the boy and his father, Agustin Gomez, were in its custody Monday, agents noticed the child was showing signs of "potential illness."
Felipe was taken to a hospital in Alamogordo, New Mexico, where doctors diagnosed him with a cold and fever and released him with prescriptions.
Almost five hours after being released from the hospital with antibiotic medication and ibuprofen, Felipe became nauseous and vomited in detention.
Because there was no emergency medical technician on duty, CBP then took the boy and his father back to the hospital, but during the trip, Felipe vomited and lost consciousness.
The cause of death is not known.
Father, son enter system on Dec. 18
Felipe and his father were first held at the Paso del Norte Port of Entry in El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 18. Both were then transferred to El Paso Border Patrol Station on Dec. 20, and then Alamogordo Border Patrol Station two days later.
CBP promised an "independent and thorough review."
Besides informing the Guatemalan government, a DHS official said the U.S. Congress was notified "immediately" of Felipe's death.
Felipe and his father were in CBP custody for more than 130 hours. When asked why the child was in custody for so long and if that violated the Flores Settlement Agreement — which limits the time children may be held in immigration detention and requires officials to turn them over to Health and Human Services within 72 hours — a CBP official said, "This subject was accompanied by a family member and was considered a family unit by Border Patrol standards."
Meanwhile, in the tiny Guatemalan village of San Antonio Secortez, a funeral was held for 7-year-old Jakelin Caal.
Balloons hung over the coffin that contained the remains of the little girl during a memorial service in her grandparent's home on Monday.
Jakelin died Dec. 8 while also in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Jakelin and her father, Nery Caal, crossed into the United States as part of one of the caravans of Central American migrants.
Nery Caal entered the U.S. hoping to find work, which does not exist across much of Guatemala.
It is not clear how Jakelin became ill.
She was apparently well when agents arrested her and her father along with other migrants when they crossed the U.S. border into New Mexico on Dec. 6.
Became ill during bus ride
She became sick on the bus ride to a border patrol station and arrived with a 41-degree Celsius fever.
Emergency medical teams flew her to a hospital in El Paso, Texas, where she died two days later. Her brain was swollen and her liver had failed.
U.S. agents say the child likely had little to eat and drink before arriving at the U.S. border.
Critics of U.S. immigration policy point to the child deaths as examples of the harsh treatment many migrants can expect when they cross U.S. borders.
"The Trump administration is deliberately and unlawfully turning asylum-seekers away from points of entry and delaying the processing of individuals seeking protection to an unbearable crawl, forcing families to take desperate measures to seek safety," the human rights group Amnesty International said Tuesday.
President Donald Trump has said all immigrants are welcome to the U.S. but must come to the country legally.
Texas Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro said in a statement he was "deeply saddened" and confirmed that CBP informed Congress about the child's death.
Incoming Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer said the House of Representatives will be holding hearings on the deaths of migrant children.
"House Democrats will not stand idly by and watch as our nation's most fundamental values are eroded, while innocent children are held like prisoners in cages and their lives placed at risk," he said.