16-year-old Juan de Leon Gutiérrez becomes the third child to die in the US Government custody since December, when a young girl, aged 7, passed away only hours after being brought into Border Patrol custody.
The Trump administration has grieved the increase of unaccompanied children and migrant families crossing the border in recent months. In April, the government division for unaccompanied children, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, revealed it was on track to detaining youth. Around 32,000 unaccompanied children had been taken to the ORR as of late March.
The government contracts with nonprofit and private shelters to keep unaccompanied children until a family member or relative can pick them up.
On April 20, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials took Gutiérrez to the ORR shelter in Texas. Clinicians in the US Customs and Border Protection didn’t notice any health problems and the teen also did not mention any when taken to the shelter, said a Health and Human services spokesperson Evelyn Stauffer.
The next day, Gutierrez became noticeably ill, including having a headache, chills, and fever.
Workers at Southwest Key Casa Padre took the teen to a hospital that day. He received treatment and was released and taken back to the shelter.
“The minor’s health did not improve after being transferred back to the shelter so on the morning of April 22, 2019, the minor was taken to another hospital emergency department via ambulance,” she said.
“Later that day, the minor was transferred to a children’s hospital in Texas and was treated for several days in the hospital’s intensive care unit. Following several days of intensive care, the minor passed away at the hospital on April 30, 2019.”
The Guatemalan consulate said the teen was admitted with a severe infection in his frontal lobe. After a surgery to stabilize the pressure in his head, Gutiérrez was put in intensive care before he passed away.
His brother and officials from the Guatemalan consulate visited him during his stay in the hospital. The teen’s family members in Guatemala were also updated.
Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon said to BuzzFeed News that he was heartbroken of another death of a child in US custody. He wrote in an email: “This boy deserved better. This should never have happened and there must be a full investigation into the circumstances of this young man’s death, followed by immediate action to ensure other children do not suffer the same fate.”
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