A video showing a 16-year-old boy’s last moments while battling the flu is capturing America’s attention. The video obtained by ProPublica shows the Guatemalan migrant writhing in pain while being held at a Border Patrol processing center.
The teenage boy has been identified as Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez. During his time at the processing center, Carlos became very ill. As ProPublica reports, on May 19, a nurse practitioner diagnosed the teen with the flu and documented that his fever had reached 103-degrees.
Warning: This video of Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez contains graphic images.
She told agents that Carlos should be assessed again in two hours and if his status worsened, he should be transferred to a local hospital. Immigration officers reportedly put Carlos in a small holding cell that was already occupied by another sick boy, and never followed through.
Instead, as ProPublica reports, Carlos was transferred to “a cell for quarantine at a Border Patrol station in nearby Weslaco” over the fear that he might infect the other migrants around him.
The following day, Carlos had passed away. On May 20, John Sanders, Customs and Border Protection’s acting commissioner at the time, issued a statement following Carlos’s death. He said:
“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. CBP is committed to the health, safety and humane treatment of those in our custody.”
The video obtained by ProPublica was captured by a security camera in the cell. As the website reports, Carlos is seen “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.”
And despite reportedly being checked out by an agent “three times” during that period, the agent “reported nothing alarming about the boy.” The video also shows Carlos’ cellmate waving for help after waking up and finding Carlos laying in a pool of blood.
In an interview with ProPublica, Dr. Judy Melinek, a San Francisco-based forensic pathologist who reviewed records of Carlos’ death, told the website:
“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. No one should die this way: vomiting, with a fever and without the comfort of a caregiver.”
Although CBP has yet to release the video or records to the public, ProPublica used Texas’ open record laws to obtain the above information from the Weslaco Police Department.
Carlos was reportedly in holding for six days and is reported as being the sixth migrant child to pass away in less than a year while being held at a processing center. “Some died of preexisting illnesses,” ProPublica reports. “But at least two others died of the flu diagnosed while in Border Patrol custody.”
And in a statement given by Representative Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee which oversees the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, she called the treatment Carlos was subjected “inexcusable”:
“Not only did CBP hold Carlos longer than the legal limit and apparently fail to care for him while he was sick, the agency seems to have been untruthful with Congress and the public about the circumstances around his tragic death. This is inexcusable.”
Border Patrol is only supposed to hold minors for 72 hours.
And in a statement given to People by Representative Karen Bass, she slammed the Trump administration for the way migrants are being treated in processing centers:
“If a parent did that, allowed their child to sit in a bedroom — not a cell, a bedroom — and not seek medical help, that is medical negligence and that is child abuse. When it is done by the government and when it is the policy of the government to separate families and separate children and essentially treat a child like that, that is state-sponsored child abuse.”
Carlos had traveled from San Jose del Rodeo to America. He was the youngest of 8 children and was the captain of his high school soccer team. His sister also traveled across the border with Carlos, they were separated when they reached Texas.
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