Dec 04, 2019
Update (Dec. 9, 2019): Family of Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez objects to publication of video detailing his death while in U.S. custody.
Following last week's original publication by ProPublica of the footage described below, the victim's family voiced its objections to the painful footage being shared online and without prior consent. In a statement issued through a legal advocacy group representing them, the family members said:
It's been really painful for our family to lose Carlos. We thought that not knowing what happened to him in that cell, whether he was all alone when he died, whether it was preventable, that we don't know if we can hold the people responsible accountable-- that that was the worst grief we could have, but having all these people watching him die on the internet is something we couldn't have imagined in a movie or a nightmare.
In response to the family's statement, ProPublica's editor-in-chief Stephen Engelberg apologized for the pain caused:
We are very sorry to see the statement from the family of Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez regarding our handling of the video of the circumstances surrounding his death. Before publication, we discussed the video with Carlos' father and a close family member, describing the contents in detail and why we thought it was important to publish it. The family member asked us to limit the graphic content that was shown, and we made excisions based on his concerns. We apologize to the family for the pain the release of the video has caused them.
We continue, however, to believe that the American people need to see this video in order to understand the actions of their government and what really happened to Carlos.
Ultimately, Engelberg said the decision to publish the video was a "judgement call" and that the "ethical questions surrounding this issue are complex."
Footage from an immigrant detention center in Texas obtained by Pro Publica and published online Thursday shows the final hours of 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez--who died from complications of the flu while in custody--but also strongly indicates the border patrol agents responsible for his care lied about what happened that night.
"As immigration authorities sat by, a child lay dying from the flu on a slab of concrete in a pool of his own vomit next to a toilet."
--Jess Morales Rocketto, Families Belong Together
Carlos, according to the news outlet,
was seriously ill when immigration agents put him in a small South Texas holding cell with another sick boy on the afternoon of May 19.
A few hours earlier, a nurse practitioner at the Border Patrol's dangerously overcrowded processing center in McAllen had diagnosed him with the flu and measured his fever at 103 degrees. She said that he should be checked again in two hours and taken to the emergency room if his condition worsened.
While a log kept by officers at the McAllen detention center in Texas says that Carlos, born in Guatemala, was given wellness checks three times over the course of four hours during the overnight, the video footage reveals that his seemingly lifeless body remained where it was--on the floor by the cell's toilet--from approximately 1:30am until Carlos' cellmate discovers him there after waking up past 6:00am. Notably, while the local police say the obtained the video footage from CBP, it contains a four-hour gap that the CBP has still not explained even as they refuse to hand over or acknowledge the existence of a complete recording of the night.
Pro Publica explained it decided to publish the available portion of the video "because it sheds light on the Border Patrol's treatment of a sick child and shows the government's account was not true."
\u201cA 16-yr-old boy died in Border Patrol custody. He had the flu\n\nThey didn't take him to the hospital\nThey didn't release him\nThey didn't even seem to check on him as he was dying on the floor of his cell, contrary to the govt's account\n\nWe have the video\n\nhttps://t.co/DE0BDzyviI\u201d— Eric Umansky (@Eric Umansky) 1575573213
The annotated video--the original of which was obtained from local law enforcement in Texas who investigated the death--details the final hours of Carlos life [warning the footage is graphic]:
Response to the video and accompanying reporting was a mix of a sadness, shock, and outrage.
"As immigration authorities sat by, a child lay dying from the flu on a slab of concrete in a pool of his own vomit next to a toilet," said Jess Morales Rocketto, chair of the immigration rights group Families Belong Together.
"Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez's death was preventable," Rocketto added. "As flu season is upon us, the Trump administration has ignored the CDC's demands to vaccinate children in their immigration jails. Three children have died of flu-related illnesses on the Trump administration's watch in the past year. We need action immediately to get children the life-saving care they deserve and ensure that no more kids die in cages."
"Impeach Trump for this," said another user on Twitter.
As the Pro Publica notes towards the end of its long and detailed reporting on Carlos' death while in U.S. custody "reverberated beyond the small village of San Jose del Rodeo" from where he came.
"Friends posted video of his funeral and a village wake on social media, with emotional tributes to him," the outlet reports. "Guatemalan immigrants outside New York City held a fundraiser to help support his family, one of the goals Carlos had in coming to the U.S."
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