Border Patrol agents falsely said they performed required welfare checks on an illegal immigrant juvenile who later died, an inspector general’s investigation concluded this week.
But the 16-year-old Guatemalan child was suffering from the H1N1 flu and bacterial/staph infections and would have died even if the checks had been performed, the audit found.
The death of the juvenile, who was found in a holding cell at the Border Patrol’s station in Weslaco, Texas, on May 20, 2019, sparked questions at the time, with ProPublica reporting on the lack of checks and suggesting those failures were implicated in his death.
ProPublica identified the boy as Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, and reported that his body wasn’t found until a cellmate alerted agents. That contradicted the Border Patrol’s version at the time, which said agents found him during a check.
The publication obtained a video of the cell and said agents “missed increasingly obvious signs” that the boy was in danger.
ProPublica also said medical experts said the boy should have been sent to a hospital rather than kept in a holding cell.
The inspector general, in a brief public synopsis of its findings, said it did find problems.
“The investigation determined that USBP did not conduct regular and frequent physical checks as required by the Customs and Border Protection National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention, and Search policy,” the audit said. “The investigation also determined that a BPA Team Lead recorded hourly welfare checks that had not actually occurred.”
But an independent medical examiner concluded the boy would have died “even with immediate and appropriate treatment.”
The findings of the investigation were presented to the U.S. attorney’s office in southern Texas, which declined to prosecute, citing a lack of criminal behavior and lack of criminal intent.
House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie G. Thompson, Mississippi Democrat, said the report showed “deeply troubling failures by the Border Patrol.”
He said his committee will find out whether those involved in signing off on the false welfare check records were disciplined.
And he demanded the full report be provided to the committee.