Things That Matter

All of the Migrant Children That Have Been Killed At The U.S. Border

The challenges that the US faces with immigration across the Mexican border isn’t necessarily a new one. In fact, the Clinton administration was “rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country.” Border migration isn’t even an issue that’s particularly unique to the US – just look to Ireland to see the issues it had when it was figuring out how to manage immigration between the Republic and Northern Ireland. But what is unique about the current situation is not only the Trump administration’s aggressive policies that have stopped migrants at the border at a rate that’s jumped 90 percent since 2018, it’s the deaths of six migrant children in custody.

Read on to find out about these children.

1. Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez

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One of the most recent death in US custody was a 16-year old Guatemalan boy by the name of Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez. He died on April 29, after the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention facility officials noticed he was sick, and hospitalized him. Vasquez was in intensive care for a few days before he passed away. So, what made him so sick, you ask? Influenza. Yep, that’s right – he died from a sickness that we can easily be inoculated against. Something that, chances are, we all probably suffer from when winter rolls around.

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So how is it possible that a teenager could have died from a bout of the flu? Anyone who’s been paying attention to the news will know that Buzzfeed recently caught wind of the fact that more than 52,000 people are now being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement – or, ICE. However, the facilities that they use to hold people only have enough beds, in total, for 45,000. Putting two-and-two together, it’s unsurprising to think that overcrowding in detention facilities could easily result in both the rapid spread of infection and also that a sick child would be overlooked and may not receive needed treatment.

2. The Toddler

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The name of the two-and-a-half-year-old has not been released to the press. This could be for a number of reasons: the authorities may have concealed The Toddler’s name as part of their damage control efforts, or it could simply be to protect the identity of the small child. Practicing healthy skepticism, it’s more likely the former since The Toddler is currently the youngest child to have died in US custody. He passed away on May 14.

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The Toddler and his mother were also from Guatemala, which is currently ravaged by violence, poverty, and drought. It’s worth noting here that, according to the United Nation’s (UN) 1951 Refugee Convention, an asylum seeker is someone who seeks protection in another country due to the threat of violence in their home country. In this case, it’s not illegal for people to cross international borders and present themselves to authorities to ask for asylum. It stands to reason that the US agrees with these terms since they’re a signatory on the Convention. But you know what? Day after day, we still hear the words “illegal immigrant” thrown around. For children like The Toddler, who are fleeing violence, they’re not an illegal immigrant – they’re an asylum seeker. But they’re still being detained and dying, due to long processing times and semantics.

3. Juan de León Gutiérrez

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16-year-old Juan de León Gutiérrez passed away on April 30, after being apprehended by the CBP near El Paso on April 19. The Guatemalan Foreign Ministry said Gutierrez died of complications after developing a rare infection in his brain’s frontal lobe, known as Pott’s puffy tumor. It’s usually caused by a severe sinus infection or a head trauma. Whether he contracted a sinus infection or suffered a head injury as a result of being in detention remains to be seen. He was unaccompanied at the time, meaning that he had no family with him when he was in detention – or when he passed away.

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So what is President Donald Trump doing about all of this? His most recent comments regarding the deaths in CBP custody saw him blame the Democrats since they are refusing to work with him and approve changes to improve the current system. However, these “improvements”, for want of a better word, would see $4.5 billion in emergency humanitarian funding directed towards detaining families for longer and expediting deportations – policies that the Democrats oppose. Despite these setbacks, ICE has requested funding for another 9,000 beds, so that it can increase its capacity to detain people in 2020.

4. Jakelin Caal Maquin

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Guatemalan youngster Jakelin Caal Maquin was only seven years old when she passed away from sepsis, a bacterial infection, on December 8 last year while in the custody of border patrol agents. This was two days after she and her father were detained by local authorities.

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Possibly the only positive to have come from Maquin’s death was a change in policy from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). They ordered medical checks for all children in custody, and expanded medical screenings, too. In fact, since December the CBP has been transporting about 69 individuals per day to higher-level care facilities, which includes hospitals. While it is likely that some people have developed illnesses while in detention, some are arriving with pre-existing health conditions, such as the likes of influenza and liver disease.

5. Felipe Gómez Alonzo

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Felipe Gómez Alonzo didn’t even live to see Christmas Day last year, having passed away on Christmas Eve while in CBP custody after contracting influenza. Yep, another flu case. At the time, he was being detained with his father, and was in the process of being moved from the CBP’s El Paso station because the facility had run out of space. The eight-year-old died at a highway checkpoint.

Instagram / @broloelcordero

While Alonzo’s death was a first for children’s deaths in CBP custody, the fact that he was being kept on the side of a highway was not. It was reported by the Associated Press that the Border Patrol has been dealing with overcrowding in detention centers by simply detaining people for hours outside in a parking lot, and under an international bridge. Families are made to sleep at these locations on the grass and pavement outside, or in poor conditions in military-style tents. This puts them at risk of violent assault and potential accidents. It seems this practice won’t be ending anytime soon since the Border Patrol announced at the beginning of May that it was opening two 500-person tents to house detainees – one in El Paso, and another in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.

6. The Sixth Child

Instagram / @theexecutivetea

News has broken that a sixth, El Salvadoran, child died in US custody in September 2018. While her name is yet to be released, what is known is that she was ten years old, and had been detained for eight months before her death.

Instagram / @gerahy

According to authorities, the girl had a history of heart defects and died in a hospital in Nebraska. It is assumed that she was alone in her detention, as the Department of Health and Human Services were responsible for her, and they are typically responsible for providing healthcare to unaccompanied minors.

While just one think piece about these unnecessary deaths isn’t suddenly going to make the Trump administration reconsider how it is treating these children, it’s still important to remember the names of these young people who had their whole life ahead of them – before neglect and mistreatment cut them short. Valuing human lives is also about remembering them in death, too.

Another Member Of The US Military Has Been Arrested For Smuggling Undocumented People Across The Border

Things That Matter

Another Member Of The US Military Has Been Arrested For Smuggling Undocumented People Across The Border

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The U.S. military is going through a serious rough patch. Not only are they have issues recruiting new service members, but they’re also having problems retaining mental health workers, which is a really big deal because they help the people already inlisted. Now we’re seeing the ramifications of that.  Just this week a U.S. Navy sailor shot and killed two people at Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor military installation. The Navy sailor went on to kill himself. It all happened in the same week as the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which the celebration is supposed to take place this Saturday. The issues the military is facing is not combatting depression and other mental health problems within their units, but some ethical ones that go completely against what the country stands for. 

On December 2, U.S. marine was charged for smuggling undocumented people across the border near San Diego, California.

Credit: Unsplash

“On December 2, 2019, at approximately 1:30 a.m., a junior-enlisted Marine with Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel for allegedly bringing in undocumented immigrants at the San Ysidro port of entry,” the Marine Corps said in a statement, according to ABC News. “The Marine is currently being held in civilian custody. The determination as to the adjudicating authority has not yet been made.”

The 20-year-old Marine has not been publically named, but the news station adds that they were not part of the “Trump administration’s southwest border support mission.”

Credit: Unsplash

Additional reports say the Marine was pulled over in a 2007 Ford Mustang for “additional screening.” That is when border officials found two Chinese women in his trunk. 

“The Marine is currently being held in civilian custody,” Marine spokesman Lt. Cameron Edinburgh said in a statement to Fox News. “The determination as to the adjudicating authority has not yet been made.”

This latest charge comes on the heels of a slew of other military officials who have also arrested on similar smuggling charges.

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Just this summer, 19 Marines were arrested for various offenses. ABC News reports that the Marines were allegedly involved “in activities ranging from human smuggling to drug-related offenses.” All of the Marines involved in this case were stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. The number of marines involved in this case gradually increased from 16 to 19.

“1st Marine Division is committed to justice and the rule of law, and we will continue to fully cooperate with NCIS on this matter,” the statement said, according to the network. “Any Marines found to be in connection with these alleged activities will be questioned and handled accordingly with respect to due process.”

According to Stripes.com, the Marines were all arrested in front of their peers during their morning formation and that was done purposely to make an example out of them. 

“It was a public display for the entire unit to see,” 1st Marine Division Spokesman 1st Lt. Cameron Edinburgh told the online news site. 

As for the reason to not disclose the names of the Marines arrested, Marine Maj. Kendra Motz said that is because “Out of respect for the privacy of the implicated Marines,” and added, “we will not release names or other identifying information until charges are announced.” Six out of those marines arrested have already pleaded guilty to human trafficking and drug charges. 

In related news, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that detainments at the border continue to decrease.

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Mark Morgan said last month that in October, the trend of a decline of detainments at the border continues to show a decline. 

“The numbers show this administration has and continues to take bold action to address this crisis,” Morgan said, according to The Texan news. 

In May, however, it was a whole different story.  Back then, border officials said they saw 144,000 detainments in one month alone. From then until October, there has been a 70 percent. 

It’s certainly an odd predicament that the government and the military are facing because on the one hand detainments at the border are going down, which speaks positively of their security tactics. Yet, on the other hand, their own military workforce looks to be in quite the dilemma going against their own principals. 

READ: CBP Arrests A 16-Year-Old After Catching Them Using A Remote Control Car To Smuggling Drugs Across The Border

This Guatemalan Mom Was Separated From Her Son At The Border After Enduring A Gunshot To The Face

Things That Matter

This Guatemalan Mom Was Separated From Her Son At The Border After Enduring A Gunshot To The Face

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In an exclusive interview with People Magazine, a 32-year-old Guatemalan woman recounts her experience fleeing her home country in August 2017 after being shot in the face at a demonstration. Not only does the woman—who goes by the false name Daniella—describe the event that catalyzed her desire to leave Guatemala, but she tells of the many months spent traveling north, and the many months spent in a detention center after reaching the border, separated from her young son.

On August 9, 2017, Daniella and her son, Carlos, were leaving their family’s house when they encountered a large protest against a new measure that would require people to pay for water. At first the protest was peaceful—but then bullets started flying through the air. Daniella and Carlos were just passing through, but a bullet had caught Daniella in two parts of her body: the left arm, and right below the eye.

“I threw my arm around Carlos to protect him—he was covered in blood, and I started to panic,” she told People. “Little did I know that the one bleeding was me.”

Because of rampant corruption in that part of Guatemala, Daniella knew that the police wouldn’t come—they were told not to interfere. So vigilant were certain members of the demonstration that Daniella’s father received a threatening call before she even made it to a hospital. The caller told her father that if they filed a report, he would kill the whole family. Later she learned that the man who had shot her lived just three blocks away from her mother. Fortunately, when she made it to the hospital, her husband—who had moved the the U.S. five years earlier to find work, sent money for the expenses.

After more than a week in the hospital, both bullets remain in Daniella’s body to this day.

“The doctor said that if they were taken out, I could be left in a vegetative state, or I could die,” she said. “To this day I still feel pain.”

After this harrowing experience, Daniella decided that it was time to follow in her husband’s footsteps and flee to the U.S. She knew that the journey would be anything but easy, but she could have never guessed how nightmarish a month lay ahead. Traveling by truck and by bus, there were many nights spent on the side of the road. When they finally made it to the Arizona border, they were not dropped off at an immigration center, as she had expected. Instead, she and Carlos were told to climb a tree, then jump from the tree to the border wall. From there, they could reach the other side.

“I told Carlos, ‘Mijo, you have to jump.’ He was so afraid that he wouldn’t move,” she said. “I looked into my son’s eyes, and I said, ‘Son, please trust me. Everything’s going to be all right.’

After they had both made it safely to the other side, they took just a few steps before the Border Patrol arrived. They were taken into custody and dropped off at “La Hielera”—The Icebox. There, Daniella was forced to sign papers she didn’t understand, and the officer who was present told her that the children would be taken to a shelter, then given up for adoption. Naturally, all the mothers were desperately frightened by this news.

Before leaving for court that same day, Daniella said goodbye to Carlos, unsure if they would ever see each other again. She told People Magazine that she held her son and said: “You’re a champion, Papa, and you’re always going to be in my heart.”

The mothers were not immediately told the whereabouts of their children. But five months after being moved to Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, Daniella learned that Carlos was in a New Jersey foster home.

A few months later, Daniella had her official court hearing. Her bail was posted at $30,000, and after filing an appeal to extend the bail deadline, Daniella was released from custody. She had been detained for 11 months.

The organization Immigrant Families Together had gathered the money for Daniella’s bail, and they helped her get back on her feet by providing her with food and clean clothes. They also took her to the airport to fly to Virginia, where Carlos had relocated to live with his uncle, her brother.

Daniella’s story isn’t unique—roughly 30,000 people are detained in the U.S. on a given day, and these numbers have seen major upticks throughout 2019. What makes Daniella’s story remarkable is her reunion with Carlos. Many families who have been separated at the border are not nearly as lucky.

While she and Carlos continue to deal with the psychological trauma of this experience, Daniella is grateful and focused on the future.

“Without the assistance from all the people that helped me, I wouldn’t be free,” said Daniella. “Now my only focus is my family, my son, starting a new life here in California . . . I don’t have to worry about being shot again or putting my son’s life in danger.”