Newly released video shows that a 16-year-old boy’s death from the flu while in government custody in May was recorded by a security camera — which watched him seemingly writhe in pain and vomit blood before his body fell still, only to be discovered by another boy hours later.
The footage was published Thursday by ProPublica along with a lengthy investigation into the truth about what happened to Guatemala native Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez.
According to ProPublica, the video undercuts the government’s version of events about Carlos’ death and provides a view of conditions for sick migrant children in custody.
Carlos died in May while being held in a Border Patrol facility in Texas. He had crossed into the U.S. days earlier.
Related: Trump Admin Moves to End Rule Limiting Detention of Migrant Children
According to ProPublica, Carlos had a 103-degree fever and was killed by the flu and other complications, including pneumonia. His head was surrounded by a large pool of blood after he slid from the toilet in his last minutes of movement, shortly before 2 a.m. on May 20.
He was last given medication the night before his death, according to ProPublica.
The security video published by ProPublica, which is graphic, shows his cellmate, another sick boy in quarantine with him, found him more than four hours after he stopped moving.
The other boy then alerted officials outside. However, the Border Patrol had claimed that Carlos was found in a welfare check.
The teen was supposed to have been checked for worsening symptoms and hospitalized, according to directions from a nurse who diagnosed him at the overcrowded facility, ProPublica reported.
“To not treat somebody who is sick and to allow them to suffer, I don’t know how you don’t describe that as torture and as child abuse,” Rep. Karen Bass tells PEOPLE.
“To think that this is actually a part of the policy of our government right now, it enrages me and it profoundly saddens me,” she says.
Bass is a leading Democratic voice in Congress on what she says is the Trump administration’s inhumanity toward migrants, especially migrant children in custody.
The conditions of detained migrants made national headlines this year following numerous reports of filth and neglect. Multiple migrant children have died in custody as well.
“Why is a teenaged boy in a jail facility at all if he is sick with a transmissible illness? Why isn’t he at a hospital or at a home or clinic where he can get a warm bed, fluids, supervised attention and medical care? He is not a criminal,” Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist, told ProPublica after being asked to review records of Carlos’ death.
“No one should die this way: vomiting, with a fever and without the comfort of a caregiver,’ Melinek said.
CONTENT WARNING: The Below Video of Carlos Vasquez’s Death Is Graphic
President Donald Trump campaigned on restricting immigration, both legal and illegal, and has made it a central part of his administration.
At the same time, border officials have said they are grappling with large numbers of migrants — mostly families and children, in contrast to the single migrant men who had made up much of the border crossings in years past.
When asked for comment on the circumstances of Carlos’ death, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson directed PEOPLE to a prepared statement.
“The investigation into the death Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez is ongoing,” the statement reads. “While we cannot discuss specific information or details of this investigation, we can tell you that the Department of Homeland Security and this agency are looking into all aspects of this case to ensure all procedures were followed.”
Border officials have framed their failures as the result of too few resources to contend with too many migrants, but they say their medical staffing has improved since last year.
Carlos was held in May for six days before his death, despite the fact that children detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection are supposed to be transferred within three days, according to ProPublica.
Those who knew him told ProPublica that Carlos was an excellent student who loved soccer and planned to make the trip to the U.S., where his brother already lived, to try and get a construction job.
He is at least the third child to die from the flu after being diagnosed while under the watch of U.S. Customs and Border Protection this year, according to ProPublica’s investigation. In the decade before this year, not one migrant child has died while in Border Patrol’s custody.
“Not only did CBP hold Carlos longer than the legal limit and apparently fail to care for him while he was sick, the agency seems to have been untruthful with Congress and the public about the circumstances around his tragic death,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee which oversees the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “This is inexcusable.”
Carlos’ pain is clear in the video published by ProPublica, which also includes a four-hour gap the government has not explained. He is shown falling from a bench in the quarantine cell, uncomfortably rolling around on the concrete floor and struggling to stand.
According to ProPublica, a log showed an officer said he performed three welfare checks on Carlos before his body was found by his cellmate. But it’s unclear what those checks entailed and the security camera footage for this period is missing.
In a statement following Carlos’ May 20 death, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it was “committed to the health, safety and humane treatment of those in our custody” after this “tragic loss.”
“The inconsistencies between Border Patrol’s official account and this video regarding the death of a migrant child is disturbing,” the House Homeland Security Committee said in another tweet Thursday. We need answers from Border Patrol on why their account doesn’t match up with this video.”
Not only did CBP hold Carlos longer than the legal limit and fail to care for him while he was sick, the agency seems to have been untruthful with Congress and the public on the circumstances that led to his death. Inexcusable. https://t.co/p8ntlu3VC5— House Homeland Security Committee (@HomelandDems) December 6, 2019
The video has re-ignited discussion about the conditions at border facilities and the effectiveness of the government’s immigration policies.
Rep. Bass tells PEOPLE she believes the Trump administration, which has controversially separated thousands of migrant families at the border, has “no floor for how low they will sink.”
“If a parent did that, allowed their child to sit in a bedroom — not a cell, a bedroom — and not seek medical help, that is medical negligence and that is child abuse,” Bass says. “When it is done by the government and when it is the policy of the government to separate families and separate children and essentially treat a child like that, that is state-sponsored child abuse.”