Another Migrant Baby Nearly Died Of Pneumonia in ‘Freezing’ Holding Cell
“The agents told me I wasn’t in a position to be asking for anything and that they didn’t tell me to come to the United States.”
A five-month-old migrant baby from Honduras nearly died during the week of Dec. 23. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials held the sick baby and her mother in a “freezing” cell immigrants referred to as iceboxes. Wishing to be identified only as A. Portillo, the baby’s mother said her baby was on an antibiotic, but CBP officials took this away when they took the mother and child into custody.
Portillo told journalists she fled her home country because of an abusive relationship.
“She hitchhiked, took buses, and walked through Mexico before reaching Tijuana with the intention of asking for asylum in the US,” Buzzfeed News reported.
When she was told to wait about seven weeks to request asylum, Portillo jumped the border fence. She fell into the hands of CBP and held in California for a few weeks. When the holding cells became too freezing cold, her baby got sicker, and the 23-old-mother asked CBP officers for access to a doctor. But they refused, reportedly calling her an invader.
“The agents told me I wasn’t in a position to be asking for anything and that they didn’t tell me to come to the United States,” Portillo said.
She was eventually moved to San Diego before being transferred to North Carolina where she reunited with relatives. Only then could she get her sick baby to the hospital. The baby stopped breathing at a point before being resuscitated. She had fever, and doctors diagnosed she had pneumonia. Portillo said her baby would not have been fatally sick if CBP officers had allowed her to keep her medication.
Just a couple weeks prior to Portillo’s incident, a seven-year-old girl named Jakelin Caal died in CBP custody shortly after she was taken in. The Washington Post reported Caal died of septic shock, fever and dehydration. Another child suffered cardiac arrest and almost died at the same facility where Caal lost her life. Members of Congress toured the facility and expressed shock at the inhumane conditions under which immigrants are held.
Just four days ago an eight-year-old Guatemalan boy died of the flu, becoming the second child to die while in government custody. Prior to the two recent deaths, no migrant child had died while in government custody for over a decade.
New Mexico representative Ben Ray Lujan called the custody cells degrading. And Texas representative Al Green said the sight that confronted him at the facility was unconscionable and unbelievable. Green said even ASPCA would not dare keep animals in the kind of holding cells where immigrants are kept at the facility. Texas Congresswoman-elect Veronica Escobar blamed President Trump for policies that make immigrants cross the borders illegally into the United States.
When asked for comments, CBP said they are investigating the reports and will release a statement soon.