NOI 39: Guatemalan Teenager, Carlos Hernandez, Dies in Immigration Detention

In this somber episode of Nation of Immigrants, immigration attorney Jacob Tingen reflects on the death of Carlos Hernandez, a Guatemalan teenager whose death inside an immigration detention center was caught on video.

Jacob Tingen: Welcome again to Nation of Immigrants. Hello and welcome back. It’s good to see you. I know for those of you who follow the live stream of this podcast, I literally just recorded the last episode, but there were a couple of headlines. First of all, we have to address the public charges, I get that completely.

Jacob Tingen: Second of all, there is another issue that I wanted to address, another headline, but it’s sad and I want to try to do my best to treat it with respect. We do know that sometimes immigrants die while they’re in immigration detention and that’s so unfortunate and heartbreaking and it’s not okay. And when I say we know that sometimes it happens, I’m not saying, oh, this is just an unfortunate consequence or collateral damage. It’s not okay. It should never happen. Especially in an instance where somebody … Where this could have been prevented and it seems like that’s the case in this case, it seems like it could have been prevented.

Jacob Tingen: What’s terrifying about this situation is that it was caught on video and that video was released and published online. And so that’s why I’m trying to treat the topic with respect. I’ll talk about my reflections on that video here in a bit and after the intro. So thank you for listening in and yeah, I look forward to talking with you about this issue and hopefully we can have a bit of a heart to heart.

Announcer: You’re listening to Nation Of Immigrants.

President Obama: America is a nation of immigrants.

Announcer: A podcast about US immigration law with your host, Jacob Tingen.

Jacob Tingen: Okay. So as I mentioned, there’s been this new video that’s been published online. It is of a Guatemalan teenager and there’s footage of his death. Most of his death is off camera. We will link to the video here. We didn’t want to include it for our viewers, but if you feel like it’s appropriate for you to watch that video, we’ll include that in the show notes. I do think it is worth viewing. I do believe that there is something to be learned from the experience. Hopefully as you view it and as you listen to this recap, it will inspire you to do what you can to fight against these kinds of atrocities in any way possible. You can call elected representatives and let them know that you’re not okay with this. As you are involved in the community, as you vote, you can take action and say no to this kind of stuff. This kind of behavior.

Jacob Tingen: It’s been my experience that, you know, law enforcement officers and jail officials and those kinds of people are generally good people. But the bureaucracy of it, the mentality of jails is broken and it leads to results that are unfortunate. Like these. So first, I’ll review what’s in this news article and talk about the video a bit.

Jacob Tingen: So there was a 16 year old boy, Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez who had the flu. He was placed in a separate holding cell for people who were sick, kind of like a quarantine cell, a little closer to other law enforcement officers by outside of the general population of the detention center. And he was placed there and he had a 103 degree temperature. He wasn’t taken to a hospital and from the video, no one comes to visit him to check on him, to monitor his condition, to make sure he’s okay. And this is after he’s been diagnosed with flu like symptoms, diagnosed with the flu and a temperature of 103 degrees. So that’s a dangerous spot to begin and then to be placed in a cell.

Jacob Tingen: Now for those of you who watch the video, you’ll see the cell and this is again for people who we know are sick. It’s not like there’s a bed, there’s literally two concrete benches. In the video, there is one child sleeping underneath a blanket. I forget what the material is called it’s like a metallic looking blanket. It’s not really a blanket in the traditional sense, it’s more like a covering. And then there’s this boy Carlos Hernandez who’s also in the cell. And you know it’s the quarantine cell and they’re sick and laying down.

Jacob Tingen: In the video you see Carlos stand and get up. He goes to the door. It’s not clear what happens at the door cause it’s outside of the camera view and then you see him move towards the toilet. Based on the description in the video and in the article it’s apparent that he vomited and then kind of just lay on the floor next to that toilet that’s in the cell, which is just barely out of you because of a wall in the video and then the video shows that he struggles and twitches and then stops moving.

Jacob Tingen: What’s not okay is that then the video record goes blank for several hours and there’s no explanation from any government agency as to why that is. What’s not okay is that no one appears to check on him. What’s not okay is that there are records that indicate that someone did check on him during the hours where it’s apparent that he already transpired the hours when they discovered them. What’s not okay is that officially they respond that they discovered that he was dead when they did a regular a well person check. But the video shows that the other child that was in the cell woke up and found him dead.

Jacob Tingen: And so, you know, none of these things are okay. Why wouldn’t someone with 103 degree temperature be taken to a hospital? And, and let me emphasize this is a minor child. Some people might say, well he entered the US illegally, he was in immigration detention for some reason. You know, our immigration laws are civil. That means these people didn’t break criminal laws much less a child who’s only 16 probably. Well, I don’t know his reasons for coming to the US so I’m not going to pine on that. But what I do know is that the majority of the immigrants I meet come fleeing fear or they come looking for hope.

Jacob Tingen: And both of those are good reasons to come to the US because we are a safe country filled still with hope and the American dream. So this is just so unfortunate. I do invite you to watch the video with the perspective of learning not out of sensationalizing anything. I think it’s an important issue to talk about. We have to be able to have conversations about difficult topics. I have no idea if I’ve addressed this sensitively enough, but my hope is is that through this podcast and through videos like these, we can kind of elevate the immigration discussion and stop things like this from happening in the future.

Jacob Tingen: So that’s my hope. If you like what you’re hearing in the podcast and you want to hear more about what immigrants go through and the challenges they face, please follow us. In fact, we will be talking about the jailing of immigrants and, and how that impacts their lives here in the near future. There’s a lot to be said on this topic and it’s got to stop. So that’s where we’ll end today. Thank you for listening to Nation of Immigrants and I hope to see you around again soon.

Announcer: Thank you for listening to Nation of Immigrants.

President Obama: America is a nation of immigrants.

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