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

Instagram / @englishwithsoh

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.

Instagram / @blacktruthnews

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

Instagram / @feministinpower

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.

Instagram / @adam_allegro

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

Instagram / @marionydv

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.

Instagram / @enmnews

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

Instagram / @wandaltrammell

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.

Instagram / @pod617

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

Instagram / @gpedrozaaa

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.

Sheriff Calls Immigrants ‘Drunks’ Then Finds Out His Son Was Arrested For Public Intoxication

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Sheriff Calls Immigrants ‘Drunks’ Then Finds Out His Son Was Arrested For Public Intoxication

screenshot / youtube / fox news

A Texas sheriff is eating his words after his bigotted comments came back to bite him in the worst way.

A day after Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn referred to undocumented immigrants as “drunks” who would “run over” children, his own son was reportedly arrested on charges of public intoxication. It has also been revealed that his son Sergei Waybourn has been arrested before. In 2018 he was charged with assault and in recent years he was arrested for trespassing and theft.

Sheriff Waybourn’s comments sparked controversy when he spoke against undocumented immigrants at a press conference in Washington.

Last Thursday, the sheriff spoke at the conference alongside Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matthew Albence. Speaking in response to a ruling by a federal California judge made last month that imposed restrictions on ICE’s use of “detainers,” Waybourn underlined the consequences of releasing illegal immigrants with DWI and other crimes.

U.S. District Judge André Birotte Jr.’s decision barred ICE from using online database searches to find and detain people based. Recently, the ACLU stated that since 2008, 2 million US citizens have been illegally detained because of such searches.

Waybourn pointed to his charge of inmates to give examples of high rates of repeat offenders. “If we have to turn them loose or they get released, they’re coming back to your neighborhood and my neighborhood,” Waybourn said according to New York Post. “These drunks will run over your children, and they will run over my children.”

After his comments, the national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens called for Waybourn’s resignation.

According to Dallas Morning News, Domingo Garcia said Waybourn ought to “resign and apologize for his bigoted comments immediately.”

In response, Waybourne said his comments had been taken out of contexts and his office released a statement saying that “Sheriff Waybourn was not referring to all legal or illegal immigrants when making his comments about DWI/DWI repeat offenders. He was speaking toward the charges of DWI and DWI repeat offender in the context of illegal immigration.”

In response to the news of his son’s arrest, the sheriff said he is “deeply saddened by Sergei’s choices.”

According to WFAA, he said that “It has been many years since he disassociated from our family. We, along with many family members have made efforts over the years to help him – all to no avail. It is always sad when drugs take control of a person’s life. His choices and actions have lead to this situation.”

More Than 700 Women Have Disappeared From A Texas ICE Detention Center And Their Lawyers Don’t Know Where They Are

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More Than 700 Women Have Disappeared From A Texas ICE Detention Center And Their Lawyers Don’t Know Where They Are

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Across a network of more than 200 migrant prisons and municipal migrant jails, the US government is detaining roughly 18,000 people at any given moment. And that’s not including the more than 12,000 minors who are held in other facilities under the supervision of the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s.

And amid this network of for-profit private prisons and government-ran detention centers, migrants are constantly being shuffled around – often without little notice to their lawyers and even family.

This time, the agency is accused of moving more than 700 women without notifying their lawyers, family, or anyone else.

According to attorneys from the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), ICE has moved more than 700 women out of a Texas detention center. And ICE gave their lawyers zero way of locating them, which is especially damning considering many of the women face serious medical conditions.

Starting on Sept. 20, the women being held at the Karnes County Residential Center were sent to other centers around the country so that the facility could be used to detain families. More than two weeks later, their lawyers from RAICES have no idea where the majority of these women are being held, and they can’t find any updated information in ICE’s online detainee tracking system.

Many of these women have serious medical conditions and not being able to advocate for their health could have fatal consequences.

“I’m really fearful that their conditions could worsen,” Meza said. “I don’t want them to be in another ICE press release about death in detention.” 

The situation highlights a common problem for migrants in ICE custody: They can be transferred between facilities with little notice and yet their new locations are not promptly updated in the system. If their existing lawyers and family members can’t find them, they may have to go through their cases without legal representation, especially in remote areas where legal counsel is sparse. And those with serious health issues could die if advocates who don’t know where their clients were transferred are unable to fight for their right to medical treatment. 

According to ICE, advocates shouldn’t worry because “adequate medical care is being provided to all detainees.”

An ICE official told HuffPost that “Comprehensive medical care is provided to all individuals in ICE custody” adding that staffing includes registered nurses, licensed mental health providers, a physician and access to 24-hour emergency care. The official acknowledged that the women at Karnes had been transferred to other facilities, but did not explain why their locations were not showing up in the online system.

But given the deaths that have occurred in ICE facilities and the overall cruelty towards people in their custody, few people trust ICE’s ability to care for migrants.

At Karnes, some of the immigrants were allegedly being denied lifesaving care, such as cancer and HIV treatment, and that suicidal patients were not receiving psychiatric counseling. One woman with cancer in her uterus said she had not received medical treatment for more than two months. Another immigrant, who is HIV positive, said she was not getting her medication or being evaluated by a doctor, even as her symptoms worsened.

The lack of medical care in immigrant detention facilities is well-established. Eight immigrants have died in ICE detention centers this year, and six minors have died in Border Patrol centers, in many cases because they didn’t receive proper medical help for their illnesses. 

Technically there’s no legal requirement for ICE to inform detainees’ lawyers that they are being transferred. 

According to Andrea Meza, Director of Family Detention Services for RAICES, ICE is not at all required to inform anyone when a detainee is transferred to a new location.

There is one exception: ICE is mandated to provide notice of transfer for Salvadorans, per the Orantes Settlement Agreement — but only Salvadorans.) Otherwise, Meza says, “There’s not really anything that requires them to give us notice as to where our clients are.” 

But even if ICE did update the platform used to track migrants in their custody, lawyers said it’s rarely that reliable.

It can take up to a few weeks for someone who is transferred to a new facility to show up in the system, which means families are often left wondering whether their loved ones have been deported back to life-threatening situations in their home countries.

“I think FedEx does a better job of tracking its packages than ICE does of tracking the people it detains,” Lincoln-Goldfinch, an immigrant rights attorney told HuffPo.  

Of the women RAICES has been able to locate, some are being housed at a private prison in Mississippi that the Justice Department found so poorly-managed it issued a scathing 65-page report detailing its problems. The Federal Bureau of Prisons to ended its contract with the prison earlier this year, but now immigrant women are being sent there.