A 16-year-old boy from Guatemala died in US government custody on Monday. The boy had been held by immigration authorities for six days, twice as long as the law generally permits. The authorities then transferred the child to another holding facility, despite being diagnosed with the flu.
Guatemala’s foreign ministry said the teenager was from Baja Verapaz, north of Guatemala City, and was seeking to reunite with family in the US.
The boy, identified as Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, was the fifth child from Guatemala to die after detention by US border agents since December.
Border Patrol agents said Carlos was apprehended May 13 in Texas, after crossing the border. He was taken to a converted warehouse where hundreds of adults and children are held in large, fenced-in pens and sleep on mats.
CBP said Carlos reported that he was not feeling well and was diagnosed with the flu by a nurse practitioner. He was not hospitalized, according to agency officials.
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 people and died the next day.
A 2-year-old died last week after he and his mom were detained by Border Patrol. According to the agency they took the child to the hospital, and he was hospitalized for several weeks before dying. Juan de León Gutiérrez, a 16 year old from Guatemala died while in US government custody on April 30. Two other refugees from Guatemala, seven-year-old Jakelin Caal and 8-year-old Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, died in December after falling ill while they were being held in US government custody.
Amnesty International released a statement that Carlos’ death “leads us to wonder how many deaths it will take for the administration to ensure the safety and security of children.”
“It is dangerous and cruel to detain people, particularly children, in crowded and unsanitary conditions for seeking protection,” the organization said.