Second Guatemalan Child Dies In US Custody On Christmas Day

Immigration authorities said the eight-year-old boy died in the custody of US Customs and Border Protection.

Following the death of seven-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin earlier this month, another Guatemalan child has passed away from illness while in US detention.

The boy -- who was detained with his father -- died early Christmas morning at a medical centre in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

The centre is located 90 miles north of the border crossing in El Paso, Texas.

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The tragedy occurred during a partial American government shutdown over US President Donald Trump’s request for border wall funding.

The boy was diagnosed with a cold and fever during an initial hospital visit on Christmas Eve, after a border agent had reportedly noticed he was sick.

After being observed for 90 minutes he was released "with prescriptions for amoxicillin and Ibuprofen", according to a US Customs and Border Protection [CBP] statement.

The boy became physically ill later that evening and was rushed back to hospital for evaluation, where he died hours later.

The cause of death is unknown and an official review is being undertaken with more details to come, the CBP statement read.

A seven-year-old girl, Jakelin, died in similar circumstances earlier this month and was buried in her hometown of Raxruha, Guatemala on Christmas Day.

Relatives and friends of the family attend the funeral of seven-year-old Jakelin Caal in Guatemala on Christmas Day. Image: JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty.

She passed away in a Texas hospital two days after being taken into custody by US border patrol agents in a remote stretch of the New Mexico desert.

Jakelin was arrested with her father and others crossing from Mexico into the US on December 6, after travelling more than 3,000 km from their hometown.

According to local media citing US Customs and Border Protection, the cause of Jakelin's death was 'dehydration and shock'.

The 'caravan of migrants' that has travelled through Mexico from Central America to the US are mostly seeking asylum out of fear of persecution in their home countries.

Under American law, anyone from another country can seek asylum by claiming to have fled their countries out of fear of punishment for their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

Opponents, including Donald Trump, argue immigrants take advantage of the asylum seeking system to enter America.

According to the CBP statement, the Department of Homeland Security has experienced "a dramatic increase in unaccompanied children and family units arriving at our borders illegally or without authorisation".

It said that the law states such individuals are held at federal facilities until they are deported or released into the US with a notice to appear in court.

The number of new asylum applications rose from 43,312 in 2012 to 141,695 in 2017, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe Gonzalez, said on Christmas Eve that the US government’s detention of children due to their immigration status violated international law.

Featured image: Getty.