Four Guatemalan Children Have Died On Their Way To The U.S. Since December. What’s Happening?
An unidentified 2-year-old Guatemalan toddler has died one month after being detained by U.S. officials. According to a spokesperson from the Guatemalan consulate in Del Rio, Texas, the child died from complication from pneumonia.
Juan de León Gutiérrez, 16, made the dangerous trip to the U.S. hoping to be able to earn some money and provide a better life for his family back in Guatemala. They had been surviving on just one meal a day and with severe drought conditions, there was little hope of things getting better.
In December, two Guatemalan children died in U.S. custody making them the first children to die in custody in a decade. Seven-year-old Jakelin Caal died in a children’s hospital in El Paso, Texas. Eight-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo dies on Christmas Eve in a New Mexico hospital after being ill with vomiting, cough, and a fever.
Families are heartbroken and grieving for the loss of their children who simply wanted to help make their lives better.
Juan had left his drought-stricken village in Guatemala and began a journey to the U.S. He had hopes of earning money to send back to his family so they could buy corn and salt. According to his mother, Juan was a good boy who loved his family.
The family, who survives on farming, has been struggling for years as drought takes hold of the region.
Juan spent most days working the farm with this father, where the family grew maize, beans, and coffee plants on their modest plot of land.
Each year when school started, Juan would beg his mother to scrounge up the $130 needed to continue studying, a privilege his own parents never had. But this year, Juan said he wanted to migrate to the U.S. to help earn money that would help the family. His mother tried to convince him to stay but eventually gave in, aware she couldn’t offer him a better life in Guatemala.
Fifteen days later, the teenager was apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol near El Paso after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a statement from Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry. He was transferred to a local hospital after a doctor at a government-run detention center noticed he was sick.
On April 30, after an operation at a Texas-area children’s hospital, de León Gutiérrez died. In an interview with CNN, his father said, “He went seeking life, but found death.”
The outpouring of grief on social media tells a story of how much the immigration laws of the U.S. need to change.
Many expressed sadness and anger over Juan’s death.
The detention center where the boy was being held has an alleged history of abuse.
Experts agree that temporary detention facilities at the border – often called “hieleras” because of their cold temperatures – are not equipped to safely care for children. Aside from having to deal with cold temperatures, migrants often face verbal abuse from guards and are forced to sleep on cold baren floors. Migrants are also threatened with violence from other detainees.
Several Twitter users have pointed out that the U.S. is supposed to be a welcoming place for immigrants.
The Trump administration is doing everything in its power to not only deter immigrants and asylum seekers from coming to the U.S., but they’re also making their lives a living hell once they arrive.
While some have called out the cruel policies of the Trump administration and pointed out the inaction of Congress.
Short of a miracle, the Trump administration isn’t going to adjust its approach. In fact, the administration has recently announced new measures designed to be even crueler towards immigrants.
Congress must stand up to cruelty and find ways forward to ensure deaths like these no longer happen.
Juan was the fourth Guatemalan child to die in U.S. custody since December.
The uptick in death of minors has triggered outrage and grief in the U.S. The Trump administration started separating families at the border and it seems the policies at the border have gotten more extreme and the care of children is dipping.
Their deaths have sparked outrage among many who question how the same people who say every life is valuable and are passing illegal and restrictive abortion bans can allow the deaths of these innocent children.
Meanwhile, in the face of pointed questions, Homeland Security officials have been unable to adequately account for how many people have been harmed in detention due to this administration’s policies.