Things That Matter

A Guatemalan Teen Died In Border Patrol Custody And Now Graphic New Video Shows His Last Hours

When 16-year-old Guatemalan Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez died six days after arriving at South Texas processing center, Customs and Border Protection released their version of events. Now, an uncovered ProPublica video reveals a different version. 

When Carlos died in May, acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner John Sanders said an agent found Carlos “unresponsive” after checking on him. However, ProPublica acquired a video of Carlos’ last hours that dispute he was provided with adequate healthcare. 

Carlos is the sixth migrant under 18 years old to die in federal custody under the Trump administration, according to the New York Times. Here’s what really happened.

Hours before he died, Carlos had a fever of 103 degrees, according to records.

The day before he died, a nurse instructed authorities to check on the 16-year-old in a couple of hours and said he should be taken to the emergency room if his sickness worsened. They did not follow the orders. Carlos was diagnosed with the flu, fearing he would contaminate other migrants agents moved into a quarantine cell. The next morning another sick boy in the cell found him dead.

The video shows that Carlos was visibly incredibly ill. It shows that the only way you couldn’t have noticed this teenage boy needed urgent care was if you were willfully ignoring him.

“The cellblock video shows Carlos writhing for at least 25 minutes on the floor and a concrete bench. It shows him staggering to the toilet and collapsing on the floor, where he remained in the same position for the next four and a half hours,” according to ProPublica. 

ProPublica referred to a Border Patrol “subject activity log” where it said an agent checked on him three times on the morning of his death but reported nothing out of the ordinary. The article suggests that “agent charged with monitoring him failed to perform adequate checks, if he even checked at all.” 

ProPublica believes the video disputes CBP’s account of Carlos’ death. 

The security video shows that it was Carlos’ cellmate who discovered his body, not any agents doing a welfare check, as CBP alleged in their press release. The video shows no welfare checks taking place at all. However, ProPublica discovered a four-hour gap of missing footage that coincides with the times an agent reported doing the welfare checks. CBP would not comment. A coroner heard secondhand that an agent may have checked by looking through the cell window. 

“On the video, the cellmate can be seen waking up and groggily walking to the toilet, where Carlos was lying in a pool of blood on the floor. He gestures for help at the cell door. Only then do agents enter the cell and discover that Carlos had died during the night,” ProPublica described. 

When ProPublica reporters asked Department of Homeland Security if cell footage of Carlos’ final hours were shown on the live video monitors, they would not comment. 

“While we cannot discuss specific information or details of this investigation, we can tell you that the Department of Homeland Security and this agency are looking into all aspects of this case to ensure all procedures were followed,” CBP spokesperson Matt Leas said.

Medical experts condemn the circumstances of the teenager’s death. 

“Why is a teenaged boy in a jail facility at all if he is sick with a transmissible illness? Why isn’t he at a hospital or at a home or clinic where he can get a warm bed, fluids, supervised attention and medical care? He is not a criminal,” said Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist that reviewed Carlos’ death records

The New York Times notes the tens of millions of dollars have been funneled into migrant healthcare, with medical practitioners near the southwestern border increasing over tenfold. However, an examination by the paper found that most Border Patrol facilities in the area are insufficient in their ability to asses migrant health, despite years of internal warnings on the matter. 

“Flu can progress rapidly, but it’s not like a heart attack. Even when fast, it worsens over a period of hours. There should have been signs that indicated he needed to go to the hospital,” Dr. Joshya Sharfstein, who works at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said.

Former commissioner Sanders has since resigned and expressed remorse over the situation blaming the largely Democratic Congress for being “unresponsive” — not necessarily the Trump administration for the problem, according to ProPublica

“I really think the American government failed these people. The government failed people like Carlos,” he said. “I was part of that system at a very high level, and Carlos’ death will follow me for the rest of my life.”

Carlos’ death was not entirely in vain. The loss of his life prompted new regulations for Border Patrol agents which require they physically enter the cells of sick detainees, conduct regular welfare checks, and take their temperatures.

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ICE Is Offering A Master Class To The Public On How To Handle Weapons And Arrest Immigrants

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ICE Is Offering A Master Class To The Public On How To Handle Weapons And Arrest Immigrants

Gregory Bull / Getty Images

By mid-October, there could be professionally trained armies of ordinary citizens patrolling the streets looking to arrest immigrants. And they’d be doing the dirty work of ICE – which has launched a program in Chicago specifically to help train and equip the public on the skills and knowledge needed to do it effectively.

According to ICE, the program is little more than a chance to educate and enlighten the public on the challenges the agency faces on a daily basis. They claim that their work is grossly misunderstood. Yet the description of the six-week-long program literally describes familiarizing recruits with firearms and how to make targeted arrests.

Chicago’s ICE office announced a “citizen’s academy” to teach the public on how to arrest immigrants.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is launching a class for private citizens in Chicago on how to arrest undocumented immigrants.

The course, which begins on September 15 and will run one class a week for six weeks, will train non-agents in firearms, defensive training and how to make ‘targeted arrests.’ ICE plan to roll out the program to cities across the country.

The Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Chicago Citizens Academy is a six-week program modeled after similar trainings held by other law enforcement agencies. ICE will select 10 to 12 participants for the training, which is set to start in September.

Many Chicagoans have received letters inviting them to apply. During the program, according to the letter, “participants will gain insight into the many facets and responsibilities of ICE/ERO operations, and hopefully an awareness and appreciation of the issues our officers face every day in the performance of their duties.”

But immigration activists aren’t buying the story ICE wants to tell.

Several of Chicago’s elected officials have come out strongly against the program, saying there is no room for this academy in the city of Chicago.

“I think it’s outrageous that they are trying to do this in Chicago. This is a sanctuary city that we’ve fought so hard for,” said Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez, in an interview with Fox 11.

Rodriguez read the letter and said she was concerned about the language in the letter, which reads, in part, “attendees will participate in scenario-based training and exercises conducted in a safe and positive environment, including, but not limited to defensive tactics, firearms familiarization, and targeted arrests.”

“What it sounds like to me is a vigilante academy,” Rodriguez said. “We need to be educating the community so that they don’t sign up for it. I think the city needs to speak out against this programming. This isn’t welcomed in Chicago.”

Congressman Jesús ‘Chuy’ García, wonders if the course is part of ICE’s plan to have neighbors spy on others to see if they’re undocumented and report back to the agency.

Although the program is outrageous, it’s been taking place in Los Angeles for years.

The program was just announced in Chicago last week but it has been in operation for several years in other cities across the country. In fact, Los Angeles – another sanctuary city – has had a similar academy in place since 2016. However, unlike Chicago’s program which will be run by the ERO, LA’s program is managed by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division.

Regardless of who is running the program, many are rightfully worried about its implications. Silky Shah, executive director of Detention Watch Network, said in a statement, “ICE is recruiting an army of ‘citizens’ to fuel its propaganda machine and forge hatred in our communities. The outcome of this program will be more terror unleashed upon immigrant communities and people of color.”

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A Third Man Has Died In ICE Custody After Testing Positive For Covid-19

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A Third Man Has Died In ICE Custody After Testing Positive For Covid-19

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

As ICE continues to detain thousand of migrants across the country in crowded detention centers, the pandemic continues to claim lives. This time a 51-year-old Mexican man has died after testing positive for Covid-19 while in ICE custody.

For months, migrant and refugee rights organizations have implored the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – the agency that oversees ICE – to release all people in their custody to avoid mass contagion. The fear has been that keeping thousands of people in close quarters and without proper access to medical care could result in the deaths of countless people. But the agency refuses to listen, and it’s costing lives.

ICE announced that a third man has died in their custody after battling a Coronavirus infection.

A 51-year-old Mexican man, Onoval Perez-Montufa, has been announced as the latest victim to die of Coronavirus infection while in ICE custody. Perez-Montufa has been in ICE custody since June 15, when he was released from a Massachusetts prison and was being held by ICE at the Glades County Detention Center in Florida before he died on Sunday.

Perez-Montufa had been hospitalized for nearly two weeks as he attempted to fight off his Covid-19 infection. He entered the Palm Beach Country hospital on July 1 after reporting shortness of breath while in ICE detention.

He tested positive for COVID-19 on July 2, ICE said. The cause of death on Sunday was not immediately known.

Reports of the man’s death drew swift condemnation from immigrant rights organizations, who’ve been pushing for weeks for ICE to release more detainees from its facilities and arguing coronavirus poses a deadly threat to immigrants behind bars.

The death comes more than a month after a Guatemalan man who tested positive for COVID-19 died in ICE custody.

Unfortunately, Perez-Montufa is not the only victim of ICE’s continued detention policy amid a global health pandemic. His death comes a month after a 34-year-old Guatemalan man who had tested positive for COVID-19 died in ICE custody at a Georgia hospital in May.

That man, 34-year-old Santiago Baten-Oxlaj, had been in ICE custody at Stewart Detention Center since early March, the agency confirmed in a statement.

Baten-Oxlaj was the second confirmed victim of the virus while in ICE custody after a man from El Salvador died in early May.

Migrants in detention centers are at increased risk for the disease.

According to ICE’s own data, there are currently 883 cases of Covid-19 among the nearly 23,000 detainees in ICE custody. That’s an overall infection rate of nearly 4% – far above the national average.

And since the very start of the Coronavirus pandemic, medical experts and immigrant rights activists have warned about the growing risk detainees would face. They’ve long pointed out the inherent difficulties within detention centers – such as a lack of necessary space to accommodate proper social distancing guidelines – that put people in danger. Not to mention that the agency has long faced accusations of providing inadequate medical care to detainees. Advocates have used these arguments as a way to push for more releases.

At the beginning of the pandemic, ICE did asses their detainee population and decided to relocate vulnerable detainees, including those who are over 60 or are pregnant. Meanwhile, several federal judges have ordered ICE to release more than 500 detainees, citing the preexisting medical conditions of the immigrants released and the potential for life-threatening complications from COVID-19.

Despite the ongoing deaths and sky high infection rates, ICE said in a press release: “ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive, agency-wide review of this incident.”

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