By Nomaan Merchant
HOUSTON (AP) — The U.S. government says a 16-year-old Guatemalan died Monday at a Border Patrol station in South Texas, the fifth death of a migrant child apprehended by border agents since December.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection identified the teenager as Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez. CBP said the Border Patrol apprehended the teenager in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley on May 13. He was found to be unresponsive during a welfare check Monday morning.
Carlos was detained for six days at the Border Patrol’s processing center in McAllen, Texas, despite federal law and CBP’s guidelines generally requiring the transfer of an unaccompanied youth within three days to a facility operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency said Carlos was “due for placement” in an HHS facility at the time of his death.
CBP said Carlos reported early Sunday morning that he was not feeling well and diagnosed with the flu.
He was prescribed the medicine Tamiflu, then transferred later Sunday to the Border Patrol station at Weslaco, Texas, to prevent his flu from spreading to other detainees. He was not hospitalized.
An agency official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity said Carlos had last been checked an hour before he was found unresponsive. The FBI is investigating the case.
The Border Patrol has faced months of scrutiny over its care of children it apprehends at the border. A 2-year-old child died last week after he and his mother were detained by the Border Patrol. The agency says it took the child to the hospital the same day the mother reported he was sick, and he was hospitalized for several weeks.
On April 30, a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy died after officials at an HHS detention facility noticed that he was sick. He was hospitalized in intensive care for several days before his death.
After the deaths of two children ages 7 and 8 in December, the Department of Homeland Security ordered medical checks of all children in its custody and expanded medical screenings.
John Sanders, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in a statement that his agency was “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,” Sanders said.
Trump administration officials have said they have passed a “breaking point” in the immigration detention system, with the numbers of parents and children crossing the border dramatically exceeding the capacity at facilities.
That strain is particularly acute in the Rio Grande Valley, which has more unauthorized border crossings than any other region.
The Border Patrol has released photos of adults and children lying in small, military-style tents or on the grass and pavement outside of two of its stations. It also recently opened a 500-person tent near one port of entry and announced plans to open another.