Experts: Far More Migrants Die in Route to U.S. Than in B.P. Custody

When they get back to work, Congress will be holding hearings on the deaths of migrant children in Customs Border Protection custody, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

The move comes after a second child died on Christmas Eve.  Eight year old Felipe Alonzo-Gomez and his father illegally crossed into the United States on December 18.  Five days later, they were taken to the Alamogordo Border Patrol station.  On Christmas Eve, the child was taken to Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, N.M. with a fever, but released with medications and transported to a holding facility.  He was taken back to the hospital where he died just before midnight.

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus recently visited those facilities and U.S. Rep Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) called them sub-human.

"It's like watching an episode of Locked Up Abroad on the National Geographic Channel," he says.

The deaths of Alonzo-Gomez and 7-year-old Jakelin Caal, another Guatemalan national who died Dec. 8, have brought up serious concerns about the health of migrants, who risk their lives to come to the US border in hopes of asylum.  Guadalupe Correa of the Wilson Center, who is in Mexico studying the caravans, says the migrants often talk about health concerns as they make their way north.

"They come from places with a lack of health care, so of course they end up arriving very fragile," she explains.

And while the death of two children is shocking, she says many more adults and kids have died making the journey, either from poor health or cartel smugglers, who prey upon the caravans.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas tells News Radio 1200 WOAI he hopes that's brought up in Congressional hearings.

"Can we include all the other migrants who die or are killed, raped, or robbed in route to our less than secure border, in part, because of Congressional inaction?" he tweeted.

In response to the deaths, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is already making changes.  Children in custody have been given a more thorough screening.

“I have asked the US Coast Guard Medical Corps to provide an assessment of CBP’s medical programs and make appropriate recommendations for improvements. I have also asked for assistance from the Department of Defense to provide additional medical professionals," she said in a statement.

But Congressman Castro doubts that will help, given the state of the Border Patrol facilities in more rural parts of the American Southwest.

"It's sad to say, but I'm surprised that more people have not gotten seriously ill or died because of the conditions in which they are kept."

IMAGE: GETTY

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