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Doctors Warn More Children Could Die

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https://www.thedailybeast.com/doctors-warn-more-children-in-border-patrol-stations-could-die-like-fe...

 

Doctors Warn More Children in Border Patrol Stations Could Die Like Felipe and Jakelin

 

Experts say the crowded, frigid conditions and lack of medical staff put stressed-out migrant kids at serious risk.

 

Border detention facilities like those where 8-year-old Guatemalan migrant Felipe Alonzo-Gomez fell fatally ill while detained by Border Patrol are no place for children—healthy or otherwise—top medical experts told The Daily Beast.

 

 

The boy’s death, the second of a detained migrant child in just over two weeks, spurred promises by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to inspect borderland stations and to order “more thorough hands-on” medical screenings of the 1,400 to 1,500 minors held at the U.S. border on any given day.

 

 

But medical professionals and human rights advocates said that short of completely ending the policy of holding children in such centers—called hieleras, Spanish for “iceboxes,” because of their frigid temperatures—there is little that can prevent more kids from getting dangerously sick.

 

 

 

“There’s no amount of detention that has been found to be good for children,” said Dr. Alan Shapiro, a pediatrician and co-founder of Terra Firma, an organization that provides medical care to undocumented immigrant children. “Children should never be placed in these detention centers... Being in these large facilities where there’s not proper monitoring, it’s very easy for things to go wrong very quickly.”

 

 

“This father, if he and his son had been in the community, might have been able to access medical services in a more timely fashion,” Shapiro added. “Being detained, they didn’t have that option.”

 

 

The notion that minor immigrant children can be indefinitely and humanely detained is a contradiction in terms, experts said.

 

 

“They have very cursory medical attention,” Shapiro said, adding that many of the examinations are conducted by law enforcement officers, rather than medical doctors, and are frequently limited to checking for lice, scabies, or chickenpox.

 

 

The lack of medical professionals is particularly perilous for children, whose care presents unique challenges.

 

 

“Children are not little adults—they don’t present like little adults,” said Dr. Julie Linton, co-chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Immigrant Health Special Interest Group and a practicing pediatrician. “They may have subtle changes like a fast heart rate or fast breathing, they may not be able to report their symptoms, they may stop talking due to stress, they may be throwing a tantrum due to stress.”

 

 

“That’s why it’s so critical to have access to pediatric medical experience, somebody who can pick up subtle changes and deterioration” before the child’s condition declines too rapidly to treat—as it did with Felipe and with 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, who died after being detained two weeks earlier.

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