WASHINGTON – Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren sent a letter on Wednesday to the acting head of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) demanding explanations following the death of a fifth undocumented minor in CBP custody.
“The deaths of five children who had been in CBP care in six months are appalling, and you owe the public an explanation and a full accounting for the causes and circumstances of their deaths,” the Massachusetts lawmaker wrote to John Sanders, the agency’s acting commissioner.
Warren, who is a candidate for her party’s 2020 presidential nomination, told Sanders that pending the completion of an official review of the deaths of migrant minors in detention, “Congress and the public deserve answers about the steps you are taking to protect children in CBP custody.”
Recent months have seen a surge in arrival at the US-Mexico border of mainly Central American migrants seeking asylum.
Nearly 99,000 migrants were detained at the border in April – the highest total in six months – and 8,897 of them were unaccompanied minors, according to figures provided by the CBP.
Last month’s arrests bring to more than 460,000 the number of migrants detained at the border since the start of the current fiscal year on Oct. 1, 2018, more than in all of fiscal year 2009, the CBP said on Twitter.
CBP announced Monday that Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vazquez, 16, died at the Weslaco Border Patrol Station in Texas. The Guatemalan migrant was found unresponsive six days after arriving at the facility.
Hernandez Vazquez was diagnosed with the flu on May 19 and authorities at the station administered Tamiflu, the CBP said.
On May 14, a 2 1/2-year-old Guatemalan boy died after being apprehended on the border. Warren cited a statement from a Guatemalan official that that child “spent three days in federal custody (and) appeared to have developed a form of pneumonia.”
Two Guatemalans, ages 7 and 8, died in CBP custody last December and another migrant, 16-year-old Juan de Leon Gutierrez, passed away earlier this month shortly after reaching a shelter run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency responsible for dealing with underage asylum-seekers.
Warren noted that in the aftermath of the first two deaths, then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced “a series of extraordinary protective measures” to be put in place.
The missive asks Sanders to provide a status report on implementation of those “extraordinary protective measures.”
“Children are dying, and CBP must do more to end this string of tragedies,” the senator wrote.