Things That Matter

A 16-Year-Old Guatemalan Boy Died In Border Patrol Custody And Thanks To An Autopsy We Now Have More Details On Why

In March, a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy died while at a South Texas Border Patrol station, and an autopsy report released on Wednesday is offering jarring new details around his passing.

The 16-year-old died in US custody but new details paint a troubling picture of his death.

Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez crossed the US-Mexico border near Weslaco, Texas by himself on May 13. The teen was taken to a processing center for unaccompanied minors in McAllen for six days. On May 19, after a nurse practitioner found that he had a 103-degree fever and tested positive for the flu, he was given Tamiflu and transferred to the Border Patrol station at Weslaco. The next morning, Hernandez Vasquez was dead.

His loss marked the fifth death of a migrant child in Border Patrol custody since December, prompting many questions from immigrant rights activists and community members. Now an autopsy report obtained by Texas Monthly is offering some answers. 

According to the account, the teen died of a flu that was complicated by pneumonia and sepsis. Dr. Norma Jean Farley, a contract forensic pathologist for Hidalgo County who conducted the autopsy, said a video captures the unpleasant final moments of his life. Hernandez Vasquez was fed at 2 a.m. on May 20, with agents checking in on him once an hour. Some time later (a concrete hour isn’t known because the timestamp on the video is incorrect, with no details in the report explaining the inaccuracy), the teen is seen lying on the floor, vomiting on the floor, and walks over to the commode, where he sits and later lies back and expires.”

Hernandez Vasquez’s body was found at 6 a.m. that morning. He was declared dead 12 minutes later.

Credit: @splcenter / Twitter

After news of his passing went viral, the agency’s acting commissioner, John Sanders, made a written statement. 

“The men and women of U.S. Customs and Border Protection are saddened by the tragic loss of this young man and our condolences are with his family,” he said, as reported by the Dallas News. “CBP is committed to the health, safety and humane treatment of those in our custody.”

However, in Hernandez Vasquez’s case, and that of several other detained ill children, Border Patrol did not follow protocol. The agency is required to transfer unaccompanied children to the Office of Refugee Resettlement within 72 hours, but they did not. Even more, despite his poor health, he was not taken to a hospital.

After mounting criticism, the teen’s death was put under review to determine why proper procedures were not followed.

Credit: @ErikaAndiola / Twitter

According to Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and MassGeneral Hospital for Children, it is “fairly rare” for children living in the United States to die from the flu. He told the Texas Monthly that about one out of 600,000 US children die of the sickness. However, out of 230,000 young people being held in Customs and Border Protection, three have died of the flu.

Dr. Judy Melinek, a veteran forensic pathologist who reviewed Hernandez’s autopsy, as well as the three other autopsies available for migrant children who died in custody, said the conditions in which detained children are kept leads to high health risk.

“Prolonged custody of mixed groups of migrants from different regions in close quarters increases the likelihood of transmission of respiratory pathogens such as influenza,” Melinek, a board-certified forensic pathologist in San Francisco and CEO of PathologyExpert Inc., told the paper.

As a result, she is calling for a “public health audit of the policies and conditions in these migrant camps and a forensic review of all migrant deaths.”

Up until December, a child hadn’t died in Border Patrol custody in a decade.

Credit: @UNITEDWEDREAM / Twitter

Curiously, each of the five unaccompanied minors who did pass on had initially been taken into custody by agents from the El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley sectors of the Border Patrol. 

Seven-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin died in an El Paso hospital on Dec. 8. The late child, who had journeyed to the United States with her father, perished from a bacterial infection that spread to her bloodstream and caused multiple organ failure. Weeks later, on Christmas Eve, Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8, died of influenza B and bacterial infection. This year, 16-year-old Juan DeLeon Gutierrez died at a Corpus Christi hospital on April 30 after getting sick at an Office of Refugee Resettlement shelter in Brownsville, Texas. A month later, on May 14, 2-year-old Josue Ramirez Vasquez died of “multiple intestinal and respiratory infectious diseases,” including influenza A.

On Wednesday, the House passed a bill that would institute basic standards of care for those in Border Patrol custody. H.R. 3239, which passed 233 to 195, aims to prevent the now-growing deaths of detained children by establishing standards of care that meet people’s humanitarian needs. 

Credit: @RepFletcher / Twitter

The measure proposes ensuring that everyone in Border Patrol custody has access to drinking water; private, clean and reliable toilets that include a proper waste disposal and a hand washing station; basic personal hygiene products; and receive the medically appropriate number of calories for age and weight to height ratio. It also requires facilities to maintain shelter and environmental standards, like minimum space requirements, specified temperature ranges and appropriate bedding, as well as provide adequate training to officers responsible for implementing the new stipulations.

“Today’s vote brings us closer than ever to preventing the deaths of children and restoring humanity to our treatment of children and families seeking asylum,” Rep. Raul Ruiz’s (D-CA) said.

Read: The New York Times Asked People To Share Stories Of Being Told To “Go Back” Where They Came From And My Heart Aches

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The Rio Grande Claims Life Of An 8-Year-Old Boy As Migrants Risk Arctic Conditions To Cross Into U.S.

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The Rio Grande Claims Life Of An 8-Year-Old Boy As Migrants Risk Arctic Conditions To Cross Into U.S.

Texas is seeing an unprecedented weather crisis as much of the state is plunged into bitterly cold conditions. But that hasn’t stopped many migrants and refugees from attempting to cross into the U.S. for protection.

Many migrants cross the Rio Grande (or Río Bravo en Mexico) between Texas and the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. Crossing the Rio Grande is always a dangerous undertaking but now, thanks to the freezing weather, it’s an especially perilous journey and it’s claimed the life of another child.

An 8-year-old boy has drowned while crossing the river with his family.

Authorities have reported that an 8-year-old Honduran boy has become the latest victim in a string of drownings at the Rio Grande, between the the U.S. and Mexico. Despite the unprecedented weather, migrants continue to attempt to cross the dangerous river to reach the U.S.

The child was with his family attempting to cross the river when he drowned on Wednesday, just as Texas was gripped by Arctic conditions which have killed more than 30 people and left millions in Mexico and Texas without power, water and food. The boy’s parents and sister apparently made it to the U.S., but were returned to Mexico by U.S. Border Patrol.

According to Mexican immigration officials, the boy “couldn’t withstand the pounding water, which covered him and kept him submerged for several meters”. His body was recovered but attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

The Rio Grande is notoriously dangerous for people attempting to cross the border.

The journey across the Rio Grande has always been a perilous one, with hundreds of people, many of whom could not swim, having drowned over the years after being caught by the deceptively deep waters and strong current.

Add in the current winter storm currently blanketing the entire state of Texas, has produced significant snow and prolonged freezing temperatures, has made the crossing even more dangerous.

In fact, earlier in the week, the river had claimed another victim. A woman from Venezuela died trying to cross the river in the same area after getting trapped in below-freezing currents. Three others suffered hypothermia: one was treated by the Red Cross in Mexico, while the other two made it the US border.

Drownings are just one of the dangers migrants face.

Apart from the potential for drownings, migrants face a wide range of dangerous while attempting to cross from Mexico into the U.S. In late January, 19 bodies were found shot and burned in a vehicle near the town of Camargo, also across the border from Texas.

There’s also the threat of violence from drug cartels and smugglers, corrupt officials, and other extreme elements, such as heat during the summer.

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It’s Like “A War Zone” At The Border Wall As Injured Migrants Are Being Sent Back Without Medical Treatment

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It’s Like “A War Zone” At The Border Wall As Injured Migrants Are Being Sent Back Without Medical Treatment

For years we’ve heard of horrific stories from the U.S.-Mexico border, and things only seemed to get worse under the Trump administration’s cruel and inhumane policies.

Now, with new segments of border wall finished – including 15-feet-tall segments with barbed wire – many people who attempt to cross the border wall are falling victim to severe injuries as they fall to the ground or are torn up by razor wire. Although many are falling into the U.S. side of the border, where they should be receiving medical care once apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol, many are being immediately returned to Mexico.

U.S. Border Patrol is returning severely injured migrants to Mexico without medical care.

Donald Trump’s “big, beautiful wall,” which has torn apart communities along the border region and done nothing to curb migrants and refugees from attempting to reach the U.S., is leading to crippling injuries to people attempting to cross the border amid worsening situations in their home countries.

According to one Texas pastor, Rosalio Sosa, who runs a network of migrant shelters known as Red de Albergues Para Migrantes (RAM), told Dallas News a shelter in Palomas gets about seven injured migrants per week and the situation there looks like that of a “war zone,” with the number of injured piling up.

“This has become a war zone, with war injuries and no resources,” he said. “But governments need to know that deserts, rivers, walls are no match for hunger.”

According to Sosa, Border Patrol routinely sends migrants to Palomas with a range of injuries from minor to serious including those who have fallen off the Border Wall. 

“They just pick them up and send them over here. No wheelchair, nothing. Not even a Tylenol,” Sosa said.  The shelter works to get the men medical care in Mexico.

Many migrants confirm what the pastor is alleging, saying they’re being dumped like garbage.

Many of those who have attempted to enter the U.S. are fleeing political unrest and economic uncertainty amid the Covid-19 pandemic. They allege that they are being “dumped” back in “Mexico like garbage” without any help or medical aide from Border Patrol.

Pedro Gomez, who attempted to flee Guatemala in January, said his ankles were broken after falling from the wall and he had to crawl to the US border agent’s vehicle.

“I couldn’t even get up, so I crawled inside the migra [US Border patrol] vehicle”, Mr. Gomez said, adding: “they dumped us in Mexico like garbage, a piece of trash. They said ‘stand up, stand up.’ I don’t know where I found the strength.”

For their part, the Border Patrol denies any allegations of mistreatment.

The U.S. Border Patrol has routinely denied any wrongdoing. In fact, in response to multiple allegations from the pastor and several migrants who claim mistreatment, the agency released a statement rejecting the claims. It said the agents regularly encountered injured migrants and administered medical aid to those hurt.

“We routinely encounter injured people on the border, most of which are individuals that have entered the country illegally. When it is apparent that someone is hurt we will administer first aid and request assistance as needed,” El Paso sector border patrol chief, Gloria Chavez, said in the statement.

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