The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) internal watchdog absolved immigration officials of any misconduct or wrongdoing in the deaths of two migrant children last December.
The DHS inspector general (IG) on Friday released two statements regarding the deaths of 7-year-old Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, who died Dec. 8, 2018, and 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo, who died Dec. 24, 2018, saying in both cases “the investigation found no misconduct or malfeasance by DHS personnel.”
The deaths of the two children came as immigration officials struggled to manage a spike in border crossings and asylum requests, and led to an avalanche of criticism over the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policies that led to family separations at the border.
“We are still saddened by the tragic loss of these young lives, and we continue to bolster medical screenings and care at DHS facilities on the border,” a spokeswoman for Homeland Security told The Associated Press. “The men and women of Border Patrol are committed to the highest standards of professionalism and care.”
Both Jakelin and Felipe crossed the border with their parents. Jakelin was a part of a large group of more than 100 immigrants who crossed at a remote part of the border.
Eight hours after she was detained, she reportedly began having seizures. Emergency responders found that she “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days,” according to the Post’s review of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) records.
The girl was flown to an El Paso hospital and initially revived, but went into cardiac arrest and died less than 24 hours later.
Her death led to questions about the care she received while in government custody, though Customs and Border Protection said Jakelin initially appeared healthy and showed no signs of any issues.
The DHS IG said it had probed Jakelin’s death and that she died from Streptococcal sepsis.
Felipe crossed the border with his father and was later taken to a hospital in Alamogordo, N.M., with a cold. Though he was found to have a fever of 103 degrees, he was released from the hospital at 3 p.m. He later began vomiting and died around midnight.
The DHS IG probed his death in conjunction with the local medical examiner’s office and said he died from sepsis caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
In response to the public criticism following the deaths, Customs and Border Protection increased medical checks of immigrants in its custody.