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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