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.

Guatemala’s President Is Going To Have To Settle The Immigration Negotiation With Trump

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Guatemala’s President Is Going To Have To Settle The Immigration Negotiation With Trump

dr.giammattei / Instagram

Tuesday marked a new era of leadership in Guatemala as the Latin country swore in Alejandro Giammattei, a conservative doctor and former prison system director from the right-wing Vamos party. The 63-year-old won the presidency on his fourth attempt back in August with bold promises of changing a corrupt government and restoring the rule-of-law in city streets. 

“Today, we are putting a full stop on corrupt practices so they disappear from the face of this country,” Giammattei said at his swearing-in ceremony that had a five-hour delay.

His ceremony somewhat overshadowed by delays and protests against ex-President Jimmy Morales, who for four years dodged accusations of corruption. The scene of protestors throwing eggs and voicing anger at the outgoing administration was a reminder of the displeasure against the country’s deep-seated political corruption. It’s also a key reason why many are looking to Giammattei to bring change to the struggling country. 

As Giammattei takes office, there are questions on what his presidency will mean to Guatemala in the short and long term as issues over the future of an asylum deal with the United States comes into focus. 

One of the biggest issues confronting Guatemala and one that Giammattei will have to address early is the Asylum Cooperation Agreement (ACA) that was signed by Morales last July with the U.S. government. The agreement, which was highly opposed in Guatemala, lets U.S. immigration officials send Honduran and Salvadoran migrants that are requesting asylum at the U.S.-Mexican border to apply for protection here instead. There is now increasing skepticism as reports say that the U.S. wants to expand the deal to include Mexican asylum seekers as well.

Last year, there were many Guatemalans that were part of a 3,000 migrant caravan that made its way up from Latin America to the U.S. The caravan consisted of people that were looking to claim asylum and became a symbol of the growing migration crisis at the southern border. President Trump frequently attacked the caravan and eventually threatened to impose tariffs on Guatemala if it didn’t agree to the asylum deal.

According to the Guatemalan Migration Institute, “as of Friday, 128 Salvadoran and Honduran asylum seekers had been sent as part of the agreement,” with only a limited number actually applying for asylum there and others returning home. Giammattei has previously said that he’s willing to make changes to the agreement but on Tuesday said he would revisit details later. 

The country, one of Latin America’s poorest nations, is a key part of President Trump’s plan to curb illegal immigration and asylum claims. mostly from those coming to the U.S. Southern border. The issue for many living in Guatemala is how to let those seeking asylum when itself has become a major source of U.S. bound migrants. 

Poverty levels have only grown in the last 20 years and income inequality levels continue to be a big problem in the country. 

One of the big platform issues that Giammattei ran his campaign on was helping the shorten income inequality gap and poverty levels that have only grown in the last 20 years. Fifty-nine percent of Guatemalan citizens live below the poverty line and almost 1 million children under the age of 5 are believed to live with chronic malnutrition, according to the AP. 

There is also the rampant problem of street violence and cartel gangs that have had a major effect on the daily lives of many in the country. Giammattei plans to address this with reforms that include designating “street gangs as terrorist groups.”

“This is the moment to rescue Guatemala from the absurd. It is the moment to combat corruption and malnutrition,” Giammattei said on Tuesday in his first address to the country as president. “There is no peace without security, I will present a law that aims to declare street gangs for what they are – terrorist groups.”

There is hope that Giammattei will turn a new page in Guatemala that will see change come to all in the country that has faced uncertainty for years. But only time will tell if this is indeed new leadership or business as usual.

“We will bring back the peace this country so dearly needs,” Giammattei said. “We will govern with decency, with honourability, and with ethical values.”

READ: In Efforts To Double Latino Representation In Hollywood, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti Unveils New Historic Initiative

Mexican National Jumped To His Death Off A Bridge After He Was Denied Asylum

Things That Matter

Mexican National Jumped To His Death Off A Bridge After He Was Denied Asylum

El Mañana de Reynosa / Facebook

To understand why undocumented immigrants will do everything in their power to get to the United States is to fundamentally understand what is at the core of their fears. They are not all seeking the “American Dream” or to have a better life, many are seeking to have a life free of fear and violence. For many people seeking asylum, it’s a matter of life or death. Remaining in their home countries means death, and there’s no other way of saying it. People are dying at the hands of gangs and the cartels. So, when people risk their lives to enter the U.S. without documentation, it’s because they have nothing to lose. The worst part of all is being turned away by the U.S. because some of these have nothing else to live for. 

A Mexican national in his 30s or 40s cut his throat and jumped to his death off a bridge across the Rio Grande after he was denied by the U.S. border patrol.

Credit: @mlnangalama / Twitter

The man, who has yet to be identified, committed suicide on Wednesday, Jan. 8, and according to several news reports, was seeking asylum. Reports say that he jumped off the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, which is between the Mexican border city of Reynosa and Pharr, Texas. 

We attempted to reach information about his death via the U.S. border patrol. However, because the death occurred on Mexican soil, American officials do not have to comment about the death or include it in any of their reports. 

Mexican officials are investigating the death further.

Credit: El Mañana de Reynosa / Facebook

The prosecutor’s office for the Mexican state of Tamaulipas did release more information about the man saying, “He was attempting to cross to the U.S. side to request asylum. When he was denied entry, he walked several meters (yards) toward the Mexican side and cut himself with a knife.” The death occurred around 5 p.m. local time. 

It’s unclear why the man decided to take such extreme measures, but as we noted earlier, some of the undocumented people have said returning home is like facing death. 

According to footage made available to the Spanish-language publication, El Mañana de Reynosa, a video shows the man pacing back and forth on the bridge while officials attempt to calm him down.  The standoff lasted for about 15 minutes. Since the man was behaving dangerously, U.S. officials closed the gates to the border and stopped international entry. After the man jumped, the Red Cross arrived at the scene where he was pronounced dead. 

Undocumented people are facing even more hardships when getting denied asylum. Aside from “remaining in Mexico” until it’s time for their asylum hearing, some are now being transferred to Guatalama even if they’re Mexican.

Credit: El Mañana de Reynosa / Facebook

This week the Trump Administration announced that some Mexican nationals would be sent to Guatalama under near agreements between both country officials. 

“Certain Mexicans seeking humanitarian protection in the United States may now be eligible to be transferred to Guatemala and given the opportunity to seek protection there, under the terms of the Guatemala Asylum Cooperative Agreement,” a spokesperson for the agency said in a statement to NBC News.

To make matters worse, the outgoing Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said that agreement never became official. He said the U.S. would have to discuss the matter further with the new president. 

“It’s more than clear; in the agreement, it only lays out Salvadorans and Hondurans,” Morales said, according to Time magazine. “The United States has talked about the possibility of including Mexican nationals, but that they have to discuss it with the next government. In the last visit we made to the White House with President Trump we were clear saying that that negotiation had to be done with the new government.”

All of this disorganization by the part of the United States just complicates matters more for the vulnerable undocumented community. They seek to enter the United States, and getting turned away means more uncertainty than before. 

This is not the first time a person has committed suicide soon after being deported. 

Credit: @adv_project / Twitter

In 2017,  44-year-old Guadalupe Olivas Valencia also jumped to his death soon after he was deported to Mexico. He had been previously living in California, working as a gardener. 

READ: Trump Administration Plans To Send Some Mexican Asylum-Seekers To Guatemala And Mexico Is Fighting Back