Footage from an immigrant detention center in Texas obtained by Pro Publica and published online Thursday shows the final hours of 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez—who died from complications of the flu while in custody—but also strongly indicates the border patrol agents responsible for his care lied about what happened that night.
“As immigration authorities sat by, a child lay dying from the flu on a slab of concrete in a pool of his own vomit next to a toilet.”
—Jess Morales Rocketto, Families Belong Together
Carlos, according to the news outlet,
was seriously ill when immigration agents put him in a small South Texas holding cell with another sick boy on the afternoon of May 19.
A few hours earlier, a nurse practitioner at the Border Patrol’s dangerously overcrowded processing center in McAllen had diagnosed him with the flu and measured his fever at 103 degrees. She said that he should be checked again in two hours and taken to the emergency room if his condition worsened.
While a log kept by officers at the McAllen detention center in Texas says that Carlos, born in Guatemala, was given wellness checks three times over the course of four hours during the overnight, the video footage reveals that his seemingly lifeless body remained where it was—on the floor by the cell’s toilet—from approximately 1:30am until Carlos’ cellmate discovers him there after waking up past 6:00am. Notably, while the local police say the obtained the video footage from CBP, it contains a four-hour gap that the CBP has still not explained even as they refuse to hand over or acknowledge the existence of a complete recording of the night.
Pro Publica explained it decided to publish the available portion of the video “because it sheds light on the Border Patrol’s treatment of a sick child and shows the government’s account was not true.”
A 16-yr-old boy died in Border Patrol custody. He had the flu
They didn’t take him to the hospital
They didn’t release him
They didn’t even seem to check on him as he was dying on the floor of his cell, contrary to the govt’s account
We have the videohttps://t.co/DE0BDzyviI
— Eric Umansky (@ericuman) December 5, 2019
The annotated video—the original of which was obtained from local law enforcement in Texas who investigated the death—details the final hours of Carlos life [warning the footage is graphic]:
Response to the video and accompanying reporting was a mix of a sadness, shock, and outrage.
“As immigration authorities sat by, a child lay dying from the flu on a slab of concrete in a pool of his own vomit next to a toilet,” said Jess Morales Rocketto, chair of the immigration rights group Families Belong Together.
“Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez’s death was preventable,” Rocketto added. “As flu season is upon us, the Trump administration has ignored the CDC’s demands to vaccinate children in their immigration jails. Three children have died of flu-related illnesses on the Trump administration’s watch in the past year. We need action immediately to get children the life-saving care they deserve and ensure that no more kids die in cages.”
Children are dying in cages at the border. Where’s your outrage for children who are actually being traumatized and abused?! https://t.co/MDlaWKC4yu
— Alex (@AlexMcMackivan) December 5, 2019
“Impeach Trump for this,” said another user on Twitter.
As the Pro Publica notes towards the end of its long and detailed reporting on Carlos’ death while in U.S. custody “reverberated beyond the small village of San Jose del Rodeo” from where he came.
“Friends posted video of his funeral and a village wake on social media, with emotional tributes to him,” the outlet reports. “Guatemalan immigrants outside New York City held a fundraiser to help support his family, one of the goals Carlos had in coming to the U.S.”