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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/26/18

8-Year-Old Guatemalan Boy Dies in Border Patrol Custody Days After High Court Rejects Asylum Ban

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For the second time this month, a Guatemalan child has died in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Eight-year-old Felix Gomez Alonzo died in New Mexico on Christmas Eve, after being detained since December 18. This follows the death of a 7-year-old indigenous Guatemalan girl, Jakelin Caal Maquín, who died on December 8, two days after she and her father presented themselves at the border in a bid for asylum.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has rejected President Trump's asylum ban, which attempted to deny asylum to anyone entering the country from outside of a legal port of entry. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts joined the liberal wing of the court in the 5-4 vote. We speak to Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which helped file the lawsuit.

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JUAN GONZÁLEZ: For the second time this month, a Guatemalan child has died in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Eight-year-old Felix Gomez Alonzo died in New Mexico on Christmas Eve, after being detained since December 18th. Earlier in the day, he had been diagnosed with a common cold, given ibuprofen and antibiotics, and released. But the boy continued to become more ill throughout the day, becoming nauseous and vomiting. He was sent back to the same hospital but fell unconscious along the way. He was pronounced dead just before midnight Christmas morning. This follows the death of a 7-year-old indigenous Guatemalan girl, Jakelin Caal Maquín, who died on December 8th, two days after she and her father presented themselves at the border in a bid for asylum.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has rejected President Trump's asylum ban, which attempted to deny asylum to anyone entering the country from outside of a legal [port] of entry. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts joined the liberal wing of the court in the 5-to-4 vote on Friday. Justice Ginsburg voted from her hospital bed. The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

We're joined now by CCR's legal director, Baher Azmy.

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It's great to have you with us again, Baher.

BAHER AZMY: Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain this lawsuit.

BAHER AZMY: Yeah, so, this lawsuit was

AMY GOODMAN: That was decided by the Supreme Court.

BAHER AZMY: Right. The lawsuit was initially filed the day that the Trump administration promulgated a regulation, an executive order, that attempted to bar people from eligibility for asylum if they enter outside a port of entry. And what the lawsuit said is that this regulation clearly violates the plain terms of a 38-year-old statute, the Refugee Act from 1980, that specifically says individuals can apply for asylum no matter where they enter, which reflects the basic reality and the international law surrounding asylum law, which recognizes that people who are fleeing persecution do not and cannot calculate precisely where to enter in order to seek refuge. And so this principle reflects the basic humanitarian notion that people who enter, wherever they enter, shall be allowed to apply for asylum. So the Supreme Court left the decision striking down the regulation in place, as it plainly violates the law.

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JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, President Trump had earlier dismissed the lower court decision by Judge Tigar, claiming this was an Obama judge.

BAHER AZMY: Yeah.

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