Congressional Hispanic Caucus Condemns Pattern of Migrant Children Deaths in DHS Custody, Calls for Investigation and Oversight

May 21, 2019
6:51 PM

The following media release was shared on Tuesday evening by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus:

WASHINGTON — Today, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus held a press conference on the pattern of migrant children deaths in custody of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), following yesterday’s death of Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez, a 16-year-old Guatemalan immigrant. Five children have died in the last six months while in Custom and Border Patrol (CBP) custody or soon after being detained by immigration authorities. Below are remarks as delivered by Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus:


“Good afternoon everybody, thank you for joining us. I’m Joaquin Castro, Congressman from San Antonio, Texas and Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for this term. Yesterday morning, Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez died in DHS custody—the fifth death in custody in the last six months. Five children are dead on the watch of the United States government during that time. Let that sink in for a minute.

This is outrageous and it’s unacceptable. Enough is enough.

Unfortunately we have limited information surrounding these deaths because the Administration has refused to answer many of our questions. What we do know is that these children were in U.S. custody and died while in custody or soon after in the hospital. This should set off many alarms.

Prior to the Trump Administration, CBP had not had a child die on their watch for over a decade. But now, under the Trump Administration, we’re seeing a pattern of death.

I’ve been to the border, as have the other members of the other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and many members of this Congress. And I can tell you that DHS and HHS right now have set up a failed system that is often unprepared, neglectful, and has led to inhumane conditions at the border and in many cases now, death.

Instead of confronting this humanitarian situation, the Trump Administration has spent the last year investing time, money, and effort into a Border Wall, while neglecting the wellbeing of migrants and often neglecting the wellbeing of their own officers and agents.

For over a year, Congressional Democrats have been calling for investigations into the Trump Administration’s immigration agenda at the border and treatment of migrants. This year alone, they’ve cut aid to Central America. They’ve concealed the cruelty of their metering and Remain in Mexico agendas. Instead of responding to multiple requests from committees of jurisdiction of this Congress, the administration has stonewalled Congress, dismissed our concern, and doubled down on their cruel policies.

And on the other side of the aisle, unfortunately many of our Republican colleagues aren’t speaking out. In fact, few are speaking out. Their silence is a kind of complicity —a tacit acceptance of the Trump Administration’s inhumane border politics. The deaths of children shouldn’t be a Republican or Democratic issue or a partisan issue at all.

It‘s Congress’s responsibility to provide oversight, and it’s our job to work to prevent these deaths and hold the administration accountable. By failing to respond to our inquiries, the Administration is preventing Congress from having critical information so that we can make decisions on how to make things better. They’re concealing the truth of these atrocities to the American people. They are blatantly abusing power and children are dying because of it. Their level of neglect borders on criminality.

At the rate this Administration is going, Carlos will not be the last child to die at the border this summer.

That’s why the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has called for a Congressional and Department of Justice investigation on the death of migrant children over the last six months.

This episode in our nation’s history will be looked upon as a stain on our nation. I would urge all of our colleagues, Republican and Democrat, who care about this issue, who care about the lives of these children, who care about a humane border policy, to join us in calling for an investigation into these deaths.

With that I’d like to introduce the Congressman from California, Raul Ruiz, who is an emergency medical doctor by training, and also for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, he chairs our Health subcommittee and is the author of Humane Standards and Practices for the Treatment of Migrants, legislation that will be forthcoming.”