Sick 16-Year-Old Boy Dies In His Cell While In Border Patrol Care

by Leah Groth
Originally Published: 

A new video reveals what happened during the last few hours of Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez’s life, the 16-year-old Guatemalan teen who died while in Border Patrol custody

Out of all the horror stories coming out of immigrant border detention camps this year, perhaps the most bone-chilling are the ones that involve children. In less than a year, six children have died after being detained while attempting to enter the United States. One of those was Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, a 16-year-old Guatemalan teen who was found dead in his cell in May, due to the flu and complications from other infections. A new video obtained by ProPublica reveals horrifying details about what how Border Patrol may have mishandled the situation.

Vasquez was diagnosed with the flu by a nurse practitioner, measuring his fever at 103 degrees. Additionally, the nurse recommended that the boy should be checked on again in two hours, and then taken to the emergency room if his condition continued to worsen.

Immigration agents placed him in a small South Texas holding cell with another sick boy, in an attempt to protect others from getting sick as well. In the morning, he was dead.

In a press release that day, John Sanders, Customs and Border Protection’s acting commissioner at the time, referred to the death as a “tragic loss.” According to the agency, the boy was found “unresponsive” during a check-in and that the Border Patrol was “committed to the health, safety and humane treatment of those in our custody.”

However, a video obtained by ProPublica documenting the 16-year-old’s last hours, tells a completely different story.

In the difficult-to-watch video taken in the cellblock, Carlos can be seen “writhing” in pain and discomfort for at least 25 minutes on the floor and on a concrete bench. The boy can barely walk to the toilet, collapsing on the floor into the same position he would be in for hours.

A “subject activity log” from the Border Patrol claims that an agent checked on him three times during the early morning hours and that there was nothing alarming about his condition. However, ProPublica points out that during that time, “he slipped from unconsciousness to death.”

“The video shows the only way CBP officials could have missed Carlos’ crisis is that they weren’t looking,” the report from ProPublica reads. “His agony was apparent, even in grainy black and white, making clear the agent charged with monitoring him failed to perform adequate checks, if he even checked at all.”

They add that the video is also evidence that agents did not discover the body themselves, like they claimed. Instead, it was Carlos’ cellmate who discovered his lifeless corpse when he woke up in the morning and found him “lying in a pool of blood on the floor.” He then gestured for help. “Only then do agents enter the cell and discover that Carlos had died during the night.”

“The video and other records reviewed by ProPublica document numerous missteps in the days leading up to Carlos’ final hours on the floor of Cell 199,” continues the report. “Independent medical experts pointed in particular to the decision to send a 16-year-old suffering from the flu to a holding cell rather than a hospital as a pivotal mistake.”

Doctors have actually used the word “torture” to describe what is going on at detention centers. Others liken them to what they truly resemble: concentration camps. Some of the deplorable conditions experienced at the camps include starvation, not providing clothes or access to things necessary for basic hygiene — such as showers and toothbrushes — and forcing children to take care of strangers’ babies. In December 2018, a 7-year-old girl died of dehydration and shock — after being at one of these facilities for just one night.

This may be the latest horror story to come out of these camps, but it’s not going to be the last unless major changes are made. While this video is incredibly tragic and disturbing, hopefully it will inspire action.

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