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Contact: Michele Kayal
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Statement: 5th Child Dies in the Custody of the Federal Government 

Child Rights
Children of Immigrants

Today’s tragic news of the death of another child while in the custody of the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) must deliver a turning point in the way we think about children caught in our complex immigration debate. Five children have died while in the custody of CBP in just the last 6 months.

“Children are dying while we debate the merit of their mothers and fathers,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus on Children. “This is not who we are as a nation and we must take immediate steps to resolve this situation. The Trump administration must be held accountable for this enforcement-only approach to immigration reform that allows children to be seen as collateral damage.”

Apparently, it’s not enough that children are dying. Congress and the Trump Administration are actively working to undermine vital protections for migrant children ensured by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) and the Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA). In light of these deaths — 7-year-old Jakelin Caal, 8 -year-old Felipe Alonzo, 16- year-old Juan de León Gutiérrez, a toddler from Guatemala, and today’s death of a 16-year-old boy — Congress and the Administration should be strengthening protective guidelines and working to mitigate additional trauma visited upon children in the care of our federal government.

“These deaths not only deserve a thorough investigation but swift action to hold the agencies accountable for the practices that continue to fail the most vulnerable among us,” Lesley said. “As a nation, we should always act in the best interest of the child any time a measure affects them. We are failing these children in the most tragic way.”