16-year-old illegal immigrant dies in Border Patrol custody
A teenage illegal immigrant from Guatemala died in Border Patrol custody Monday morning, reigniting debates over the surge of migrants overwhelming border authorities, and Homeland Security’s ability to care for them.
The boy, identified as Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, had complained of not feeling well on Sunday and was diagnosed by a nurse-practitioner with the flu. He was prescribed Tamiflu, but was not taken to a hospital.
When Customs and Border Protection personnel went to check on him Monday morning he was found unresponsive, and was not able to be revived, a CBP official said.
The boy was arrested on May 13 near Hidalgo, Texas, and was transferred from a border processing center to the Weslaco Border Patrol Station on Sunday in anticipation of sending him to the federal Health Department as an Unaccompanied Alien Child (UAC).
Under the law, UAC are supposed to be held in Homeland Security custody for a maximum of 72 hours, but Carlos had been held far longer.
The CBP official briefing reporters Monday said they are dependent on the Health Department to find the space to take the children, and that didn’t happen until Sunday.
CBP personnel had checked on him an hour before he was found dead.
The FBI is looking into the death, as well as the Weslaco Police Department, CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility and Homeland Security’s inspector general.
“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,” said acting CBP Commissioner John Sanders.
The boy is the latest in a string of high-profile deaths in CBP custody.
After the initial two deaths in December, the government stepped up medical checks to try to spot issues earlier in the process.
But the surge of illegal immigrants combined with the new duties has put a severe dent in enforcement. Half of Border Patrol agents’ time is now spent babysitting migrants rather than out on patrol, officials testified to Congress.
Every day some 69 illegal immigrants are being taken to hospitals and clinics with serious medical conditions.