Death At The Border: A Fourth Asylum Seeker Dies In CBP Custody

A fourth asylum seeker has died in Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) custody.

The 40-year-old man, whose name media outlets are withholding, died at Las Palmas Medical Center in El Paso, Texas after being diagnosed with flu-like symptoms and liver renal failure.

Andrew Meehan, CPB assistant commissioner for public affairs, said in a statement:

 “CBP remains committed to ensuring the safe, humane, and dignified treatment of those within the care of our custody. CBP will release more details as available and appropriate, and will ensure an independent and thorough review of the circumstances.”

This comes on the heels of eight-year-old Guatemalan boy Felipe Gómez Alonzo and seven-year-old girl Jakelin Caal‘s deaths in December.

Last month, a 45-year-old Mexican man also died in CBP custody after being initially diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and congestive heart failure.

The deaths of Gómez and Caal motivated Felipe González Morales, the United Nations special rapporteur on migrants’ human rights, to send U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a formal complaint and request for an in-depth independent investigation.

González said in an interview with The Guardian:

“Detention of children has such a severe impact on them that we have repeatedly warned of the risks. When a person, especially a child, is in the custody of a state, that state has to ensure their rights. States have an obligation to care for migrants who arrive at the border, they cannot treat them as animals in inhuman [sic] conditions. I’m not saying this happened in this case, but the US has a duty in this regard.”

He added:

“I want to make sure that judges and public attorneys carry out the investigation fully in an independent manner without any pressure from the immigration authorities. An internal CBP inquiry would not be satisfactory.”

An Office of Inspector General (OIG) report published January states health department officials estimate “thousands of separated children” were placed in its care prior to a June court order requiring the reunification of 2,600 other children.

Not only did the U.S. government separate thousands more children from their parents than previously thought; it was separating them before April 2018 when authorities admitted to its child separation policy, which DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen initially denied.

Now the administration claims it’s too much work to reunify these children with their rightful families.

They are defending this position by citing the emotional harm the children would be subjected to removing them from sponsor families’ care.

Earlier this month, documents NBC KNSD-TV obtained reveal CBP has a list of 59 individuals, mostly Americans, intended to be stopped and questioned at San Diego-area checkpoints.

Every individual on the “San Diego Sector Foreign Operations Branch: Migrant Caravan FY-2019 Suspected Organizers, Coordinators, Instigators, and Media” list is being detained for meeting with or aiding asylum seekers from the Honduran caravanon the Mexican side of the border.

At least 21 have been arrested.

Citing an ongoing “national security” investigation, CBP reports 10 journalists–seven of whom are American citizens–a U.S.-based attorney, and others dubbed organizers and “instigators,” of whom 31 are Americans, were present during a violent incident at the San Ysidro Port of Entry border with Tijuana on November 25, which started when some asylum seekers attempted to rush the border checkpoint or climb over the barrier after being made to wait a long time for processing.

CPB responded with tear gas, which Donald Trump later defended as a “minor” form, “very safe.”

Esha Bandhari, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said in a statement:

“This is an outrageous violation of the First Amendment. The government cannot use the pretext of the border to target activists critical of its policies, lawyers providing legal representation, or journalists simply doing their jobs.”

According to the report, CBP demands access to journalists’ phones without warrants, in flagrant violation of the Constitution’s fourth amendment.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, Liberal Nation Rising, and Medium.