DHS Inspector General: Border agents failed to properly check on Guatemalan teen who died in their custody

Border Report

Migrant detainee, 16, died of the H1N1 flu inside holding cell

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Carlos Hernandez Vasquez died on May 20, 2019, at the Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas.

The 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant died of the flu during the night in a holding cell, and a fellow detainee woke up to find Hernandez dead the following morning.

Hernandez’s death drew national attention when ProPublica in June 2019 published a video from inside Hernandez’s cell. The video shows Hernandez writhing in pain before collapsing. The cellmate flags down border agents, who along with a doctor are seen rushing in.

Rigoberta Vasquez, mother of 16-year-old migrant Carlos Hernandez Vasquez, who died at a Border Patrol in Texas, shows a picture of her son on a mobile phone outside her house in San Jose El Rodeo village, Cubulco municipality, Baja Verapaz department, northwest of Guatemala City on May 22, 2019. (JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

The ProPublica report also called into question the response, saying agents and healthcare workers at the facility missed signs that Hernandez’s condition was worsening.

U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended Hernandez on May 13, 2019, near Hidalgo, Texas. He was transferred from the Rio Grande Valley Sector’s Central Processing Center to the Weslaco Border Patrol Station on May 19 and died the following day. He was due to be placed in the custody of the Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General on Tuesday announced that it had completed its investigation into the May 20, 2019 death of a 16-year Guatemalan at the Border Patrol Station in Weslaco. It says the teen died from natural causes.

The OIG also determined that the Border Patrol did not conduct regular and frequent physical checks as required under CBP’s detention policy and that a border agent recorded hourly welfare checks that had not actually occurred.

The report says the teen died of the H1N1 flu and bacterial/staph infections, which doctors said would have required immediate and appropriate treatment to prevent the fatal outcome.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas declined to prosecute, citing a lack of any criminal violations and a lack of criminal intent, according to a news release from the DHS Office of the Inspector General.

For more information, visit www.oig.dhs.gov.

Border Report contributed to this story.

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