The mother of a boy who died while in US custody says her son was healthy when he left Guatemala with his father on their journey hoping to migrate to the United States.
The mother of 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo, Catarina Alonzo, spoke Saturday with Associated Press journalists at the family’s home in a remote Guatemalan village some 250 miles west of Guatemala City.
She said her son reported he was doing well every time that he and his father called home during their trek. She said the last time she spoke with Felipe he was in Mexico at the US border and said he was eating chicken.
US authorities say the boy was suffering from the flu when he died last Monday in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
He was the second child this month to die in US custody after crossing the border. The first was a seven-year-old Guatemalan girl, Jakelin Caal Maquin, who died in hospital roughly 24 hours after being arrested with her father and a large group of migrants in a remote area of the New Mexico desert.
Catarina Alonzo’s comments contradicted remarks made earlier Saturday by President Donald Trump, who said the children had been sick before they were arrested by Border Patrol.
Trump addressed the children’s deaths for the first time Saturday afternoon in a series of tweets blaming Democratic lawmakers for US immigration laws.
“Any deaths of children or others at the Border are strictly the fault of the Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies that allow people to make the long trek thinking they can enter our country illegally. They can’t. If we had a Wall, they wouldn’t even try!” he tweeted.
He continued: “The two … children in question were very sick before they were given over to Border Patrol.”
The Customs and Border Protection agency has responded to the deaths by conducting secondary medical screenings on all children currently detained, and commissioning other federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and the US Coast Guard to assist.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen traveled to the US-Mexico border on Friday and Saturday to meet with Border Patrol officials, and be briefed on new procedures to conduct in-depth initial health exams.