WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich urged the Senate Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees to hold hearings on the tragic deaths of two migrant children in Department of Homeland Security (DHS) custody. In December alone, 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin and 8-year-old Felipe Alonzo-Gomez died in New Mexico after they were detained along with their fathers by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) after crossing the border, raising serious concerns about detaining migrant children. In their letter, the senators detail the urgent need for effective Congressional oversight to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future.
“The deaths of 8-year-old Felipe Alonzo-Gomez and Jakelin Caal Maquin raise serious concerns and questions that must be addressed,” the senators wrote. “There are also reports of another migrant girl who nearly died while in CBP custody in November after going into cardiac arrest.”
“…[W]ith tragedy after tragedy occurring in CBP custody, we believe the time for a hearing is imminent,” they continued. “We cannot wait for another death to occur. We also sent letters to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and CBP on December 14 and 28 requesting answers surrounding these incidents, but have not received responses. These tragedies and the circumstances that led to them show the urgent need for effective Congressional oversight. We believe there is an immediate need to hold a hearing calling the DHS, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and CBP leadership to provide a full accounting surrounding these tragedies and their plans to safeguard against future hardships.”
In December 2018, Udall and Heinrich wrote to the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) demanding immediate investigations into the deaths of both Jakelin Caal Maquin and Felipe Alonzo-Gomez. They also previously wrote to the Senate and House Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees, urging them to convene oversight hearings on the death of Jakelin Caal Maquin.
Recent news reports continue to show more asylum seekers attempting a dangerous journey of crossing between major ports of entry, straining resources and capacity at remote CBP locations like the one where Caal Maquin was held. The DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently published a report concludingthat the practice of turning away asylum seekers at international bridges and “limiting the volume of asylum-seekers entering at ports of entry” may be causing the increase in unauthorized crossing attempts between ports of entry.
The full text of the letter is available HERE.