United States Customs and Border Protection has ordered "pediatric evaluations" of all illegal immigrant children currently in CBP custody and an overhaul of CBP medical evaluation policies — as well as a probe into whether Mexican shelters, which are providing temporary respite for migrants as they cross through the country, are actually incubators of disease.
A second child died while in border patrol custody over the weekend — this time a young boy who had crossed into the U.S. illegally with his father after traveling from Guatemala. In response, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan is admitting that CBP needs help handling the recent spike in border crossings, and a more aggressive approach to controlling disease in the apprehended migrant population.
"I've explained to Congress ... that what we're seeing with these flows, of huge numbers of families with lots of children, young children, as well as unaccompanied minors coming into Border Patrol custody after crossing the border unlawfully, that our stations are not built for that group that's crossing today," McAleenan told CBS, according to CNN.
Those updates, McAleenan added, include better medical care for children, though McAleenan stopped short of taking responsibility for the second child's death. From the Department of Homeland Security's account, it appears the child was sick while in CBP custody, but that both the child and his father received clean food and water while in custody and were subject to routine welfare checks. When the child showed signs of illness, he received immediate medical care.
But with two children dead, it's clear to CBP that something is going on, even if the issue doesn't originate with Customs and Border Protection.
So in response, CBP is suggesting a handful of changes to its policies, including adding secondary pediatric checks for all children in custody, instituting "surge" transportation for families with minor children from CBP facilities to family-oriented detention centers, and committing to routine checks of children in border patrol custody beyond 24 hours.
They're also ordering an investigation into the conditions at Mexican shelters, which are housing Guatemalan and Honduran asylum seekers as they cross through Mexico, in case the disease and infection problems are originating outside the United States.
Politico reports that "DHS is seeking to examine health conditions at Mexican migrant facilities," and that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will visit a handful of Mexican migrant shelters later this week.
"There are 'literally dozens' of migrants crossing the border each day with illnesses," one DHS official told Politico. "DHS is looking into whether migrant shelters in Mexico 'may be prone to spreading disease, et cetera, that are causing some of these illnesses.'"