WASHINGTON • An eight-year-old Guatemalan migrant boy died early on Christmas Day after being detained by United States border agents, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said.
He was the second migrant child to die while under US detention this month.
The boy and his father were in CBP custody on Monday when a Border Patrol agent noticed the child showing signs of illness, CBP said in a statement.
The father and son were taken to the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Centre in Alamogordo, New Mexico, where the boy was diagnosed with a common cold and fever, and eventually released by hospital staff.
But later that evening, the boy began vomiting and was transferred back to the hospital.
He died there early on Tuesday, CBP said, adding that the official cause of death was not known.
The father and son were not identified, and the agency said it would release more details "as available and appropriate",
Guatemalan officials have been notified of the death, CBP said.
The boy's death followed the death early this month of seven-year-old Jakelin Caal, also from Guatemala. She died after being detained along with her father by US border agents in a remote part of New Mexico.
After the second death, the CBP announced that it was developing several policy changes, CNN reported yesterday. It will conduct secondary medical checks on all children in its custody, with a focus on those under 10.
The agency will also work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to improve custody options, such as better transportation to Family Residential Centres and supervised release, and working with non-governmental agencies for housing.
Guatemala's foreign ministry said its consul in Phoenix, Arizona, was seeking to interview the boy's father, to whom it pledged to give all necessary assistance and protection. In a statement, the ministry said it also requested medical reports to clarify the cause of death.
According to the ministry, the boy and his father entered the United States via El Paso, Texas, on Dec 18 and were transferred to a border patrol station in Alamogordo on Dec 23.
The Trump administration has tried to deter people from crossing the border between ports of entry illegally to seek asylum, while, at the same time, restricting legal access to official ports of entry.
That has created a months-long wait for asylum seekers, including those who came as part of a large caravan of Central Americans this year.
Jakelin's death had fuelled criticism of President Donald Trump's immigration policies from Democrats and migrant advocates.
The Trump administration said Jakelin's death showed the danger of her journey and the family's decision to cross the border illegally.
CBP said on Tuesday that the Guatemalan boy's death is being reviewed by the agency's Office of Professional Responsibility, and that the inspector-general has been notified of the death.
It was not immediately known if the watchdog would open an investigation.