Sen. Dianne Feinstein called Thursday for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing early next year regarding the deaths of two children in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody.
In a letter to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Feinstein, D-Calif., requested a hearing “on the care and treatment of children in the custody of Customs and Border Protection.” Graham is set to chair the committee in the new year.
Feinstein, the highest-ranking member of her party on the committee, called the deaths of the two children “heartbreaking incidents” and said the Judiciary Committee was “uniquely situated to examine these issues.”
Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security reported that Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, from Guatemala had died hours after being taken into Border Patrol protection. This week, the agency said that a Guatemalan boy, Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, 8, had died late Christmas Eve in CPB custody.
In the letter, Feinstein called on CBP to ensure that children are released from detention within 72 hours as required by law. She also demanded the agency account for the need to communicate with detainees in their native languages and develop standards of care in consultation with pediatricians and child welfare experts.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Wednesday said all children in Border Patrol custody had received medical screenings and that she had directed additional actions to care for those who enter U.S. custody.
On Thursday, DHS announced that Nielsen would travel Friday to El Paso, Texas, and Saturday to Yuma, Ariz.