Rep. Torres: 16-Year-Old’s Death in U.S. Custody is Murder by Neglect

Rep Norma TorresCongresswoman Urges Oversight Hearings into Standards of Care & Child Fatalities at Detention Centers

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Norma J. Torres (CA-35), the only Central American immigrant serving in Congress, expressed outrage today at a report by investigative reporting nonprofit, ProPublica, which shows blatant neglect of a sick 16-year-old boy who died in Border Patrol custody.

As a Member of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Torres sent letters today to Homeland Security Chairman, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, as well as Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee Chair, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, urging oversight hearings into the standards of care and deaths of minors at immigration detention centers.

Key Quote:

“Congress appropriates the funding for our immigration policies, and I demand better results for taxpayer money than dead children.”

On May 19th, a nurse practitioner at the Border Patrol’s immigrant processing center in McAllen, Texas, diagnosed Guatemalan-born Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez with the flu and a fever of 103 degrees. She instructed that he be checked again in two hours and taken to an emergency room if his condition worsened. Those instructions were ignored, and the boy was dead by the next morning.

“Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez did not simply die in U.S. custody – he was murdered by blatant neglect,” Rep. Torres said. “And like a criminal spouting excuses once caught, our own government lied about the attention they gave this sick child, and how they found him once he was gone.”

Video included in ProPublica’s reporting shows Carlos writhing in agony on a cold cement floor despite Customs and Border Patrol’s (CBP) claims that they check on him three times and found nothing wrong. Video also shows CBP’s claims that they found his body during a check in to be false – Carlos’ cellmate found his body and alerted guards.

Congresswoman Torres, herself a childhood immigrant to the United States from Guatemala, recently shared her own experiences fleeing violence in an op-ed with CNN. In it, Rep. Torres highlights how planting morally bankrupt leaders in positions of influence over vulnerable immigrants and asylum seekers, as President Trump continues to do, is disastrous for our moral standing, and can be lethal for the men, women and children seeking refuge here.

“I know the poverty and violence that Carlos knew in Guatemala,” Rep. Torres continued. “Like Carols, I came here to the United States for a better life – but unlike Carlos, I came before this president rose to power by criminalizing immigrants. The difference in our life trajectories speaks to just how much this president and his vicious rhetoric have corroded the moral fabric of this nation.

“Congress appropriates the funding for our immigration policies, and I demand better results for taxpayer money than dead children,” Rep. Torres added. “I’m urging oversight hearings as soon as possible into the standards of care at immigrant detention centers, and the child fatalities happening under U.S. care.”

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