Saying that supposed Trump administration-led reforms that should have better ensured the well-being of migrant children in federal immigration custody “are failing” following the death of yet another migrant child, Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants answers. In the span of just one week, two children have died after being taken into Customs and Border Protection custody. On May 14, a 2-year-old boy died of pneumonia in a Texas hospital, several weeks after he and his mom were detained, then released, by border officials. Just days later, on May 20, 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez was found dead in custody, just one day after telling his jailers he was feeling sick.
These deaths, as numerous immigrant rights advocates have noted, are unprecedented. “The deaths of five children who had been in CBP care in six months are appalling,” Warren tells acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner John Sanders, “and you owe the public an explanation and a full accounting for the causes and circumstances of their deaths.”
Following the deaths of 7-year-old Jakelin Ameí Rosmery Caal Maquin and 8-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo in December, former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen claimed CBP would implement improved health screenings for kids. But kids have still been dying since then. ”What is the implementation status of the ‘extraordinary protective measures’ announced by Secretary Nielsen on December 26, 2018?” Warren asks.
In Jakelin’s case, acting Homeland Security Sec. Kevin McAleenan “failed to notify Congress within 24 hours of Jakelin’s death even though it was required by law, and he again omitted the tragedy when testifying before the Senate shortly thereafter,” the American Civil Liberties Union said. “Aside from the five cases noted above, have there been any other cases in the past five years of children who either were detained at CBP facilities at the time of their death, or had been detained at any point prior to their death?” Warren further asks.
Warren’s letter follows a Tuesday press conference from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, where leaders said they would be calling on the Homeland Security and Health and Human Services watchdogs to open an investigation into Carlos’s death. “Five children are dead on the watch of the United States government during that time. Let that sink in for a minute,” said CHC chair and Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro. “This is outrageous and it’s unacceptable. Enough is enough.”