December 09, 2019

Holding DHS Accountable for a Child’s Death in the Custody of Border Patrol

By Carrie Cordero, Heidi Li Feldman and Chimène Keitner

ProPublica published an extensive investigative report last week detailing the circumstances surrounding the death of 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez. The teenager died in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention in May, approximately one week after entering the United States – even though children are not supposed to be held by CBP for more than 72 hours before being transferred to Health and Human Services (HHS). Carlos had boarded a raft on the Rio Grande with dozens of others and was promptly apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol agents after landing in Hidalgo, Texas. He was separated from his adult sister, with whom he had been travelling, and placed in CBP custody, where he apparently developed and then died from the flu.

A Child’s Death and Its Aftermath

While Carlos’s death was reported in the press at the time, the new ProPublica report includes a video appearing to be from the time period before and after Carlos’s death in the CBP cell. (Carlos’s family has since indicated that they had not seen the video and had not consented to its release or distribution.) The video appears to show that – contrary to DHS’s public explanation last spring when his death was first reported – Carlos did not receive proper welfare checks during the night, and was found lifeless by his cellmate in the morning. These new circumstances raise grave questions about whether the government and individual CBP officials will face legal consequences for failing to provide him with adequate medical treatment; failing to monitor his deteriorating health; and, potentially, attempting to conceal the actual circumstances of his death.

Read the full article in Just Security.

  • Commentary
    • POLITICO Magazine
    • April 17, 2019
    Don’t Count on DHS to Resist Trump’s Worst Impulses

    Trump is in the midst of a purge at the Department of Homeland Security, evidently aimed at implementing more severe immigration and border security policies. Last week he ous...

    By Carrie Cordero & Garrett M. Graff

  • Commentary
    • Just Security
    • July 2, 2019
    Acting or Not, the Play’s The Thing

    The musical chairs of “acting” officials at the Defense Department has taken on a dizzying pace. Army Secretary Mark Esper became the acting defense secretary after Patrick Sh...

    By Loren DeJonge Schulman

  • Commentary
    • Lawfare
    • October 30, 2018
    The Chaos of Trump’s Would-be Birthright Citizenship Order

    In an interview with Axios released on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 30, President Trump indicated plans to sign an executive order revoking birthright citizenship—returning to...

    By Carrie Cordero & Quinta Jurecic

  • Commentary
    • Lawfare
    • May 20, 2019
    Trump’s Preference for Acting Officials Puts National Security at Risk

    President Trump recently announced that his intended nominee for secretary of defense will be Patrick Shanahan, who became—way back in March—America’s longest-serving acting s...

    By Carrie Cordero & Joshua A. Geltzer

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia