Timeline shows final hours of second Guatemalan child to die in US custody

Khushbu Shah
On 24 December, according to Customs and Border Protection’s timeline, Felipe Gómez Alonzo and his father arrived at the hospital at 11.07pm, where staff were unable to revive the eight-year-old. At 11.48pm Felipe was pronounced dead. Photograph: Bill Wechter/AFP/Getty Images

Eight-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo’s first week in the US ended up being the last week of his short life.


With his father, he had traveled 2,000 miles from his home in Guatemala to reach the US border, where the pair were apprehended by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents. Just 12 minutes before Christmas Day, and after 155 hours in US custody, Felipe died, becoming the second child to die in US custody this month.

“This is a tragic loss. On behalf of US Customs and Border Protection, our deepest sympathies go out to the family,” Kevin McAleenan, the CBP commissioner, said in a statement released late Christmas Day.

It is not yet clear what caused Felipe’s death in the final moments of Christmas Eve. CBP says Felipe’s father has spoken to the consulate and his wife back in Guatemala after the child’s death.

Guatemala’s government “will request a clear investigation and safeguarding due process in this case from the US authorities”, a statement from the ministry of foreign affairs said.

Felipe – whose full name has been released to news agencies by Guatemalan officials as Felipe Gómez Alonzo but who the Texas Democratic congressman Joaquin Castro identified as Felipe Alonzo-Gomez – is the second Guatemalan child to die this month in the custody of US immigration officials this month.

Jakelin Caal, a seven-year-old girl, was buried on Christmas Day in her hometown of Raxruhá, after she fell ill in US custody and died on 8 December.

This is a timeline of Felipe’s final hours, according to details released CBP:

Tuesday 18 December 2018

  • 1pm: Felipe and his father are apprehended near the US border just a few miles away from the Paso Del Norte port of entry in El Paso, Texas, along with his father.

  • 4.39pm: Though the distance between where Felipe was stopped and the detention center should only take 15 minutes to travel in a vehicle, he arrives at the center nearly four hours later.

Thursday 20 December

  • 12pm: Two days later, Felipe and his father are transferred to the El Paso border patrol station, where they spend another two days in detention. According to the CBP, “agents logged 17 welfare checks” with Felipe and his father in this time.

Saturday 22 December

  • 11.17pm: Felipe and his father are transferred for a third time in four days to the Alamogordo border patrol station for processing “because of capacity levels at the El Paso station”, according to the statement.

Monday 24 December

  • 9am: A processing agent at the Alamogordo border patrol station notices Felipe is coughing and has glossy eyes. Half an hour later Felipe and his father are transferred to a medical center. The child is exhibiting possible influenza symptoms, the statement reads.

  • 11.30am: Felipe is checked for strep throat, a bacterial infection. A little more than an hour later, he is diagnosed with a cold and given Tylenol.

  • 1pm: As he is about to be released from medical care, hospital staff notice he has a 103F (39.4C) fever. He is held for continued observation.

  • 2.50pm: With prescriptions for amoxicillin and Ibuprofen, Felipe and his father are released from hospital and driven back to a temporary holding facility at a Highway 70 checkpoint. They had a hot meal, according to CBP. By 5pm, Felipe took the medicines prescribed.

  • 7pm: Felipe vomits. According to the CBP statement, his father declined medical assistance because Felipe had been feeling better.

  • 10pm: Felipe is nauseous again. Because an EMT is not on duty, agents take father and son back to the hospital. As they make their way there, Felipe vomits again and loses consciousness.

  • 11.07pm: Felipe and his father arrive at the hospital, where staff are unable to revive the eight-year old.

  • 11:48pm: Felipe is pronounced dead.

CBP has now ordered medical checks on every child in its custody, though it declined to release figures for the number of children detained.