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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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