Doctor with medical humanitarian group calls migrant teen's death 'preventable,' 'passive genocide'
A doctor with a prominent medical humanitarian group that has pleaded with the border officials to allow it to vaccinate detained people against the flu called 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez’s death in custody earlier this year “preventable,” and said that federal immigration officials are carrying out “passive genocide.”
Doctors for Camp Closure has been asking Customs and Border Protection since last month to allow medical professionals with the group to give detained children and families flu shots, a request made all the more urgent following recently obtained video further showing the agonizing final hours before Carlos’ death, in part from flu, this past May. It’s a death that Dr. Mario Mendoza, a member of Doctors for Camp Closure, told CNN didn’t have to happen.
“An otherwise healthy 16-year-old should not be dying of the flu in 2019, especially in a first-world country like the United States of America,” he told Anderson Cooper, adding that teens such as Carlos who had the flu “just needed mild supportive care, and that is fever control with antipyretics. They needed hydration, whether oral or IV, and that’s about it. And so this was a really preventable death.” Mendoza further called inaction to protect the well-being of detained people “passive genocide,” which appeared to startle Cooper. “How is this genocide?” he asked. “Thank you for that,” Mendoza replied, and answered.
“If you look up what genocide encompasses, it can be either race or a cultural group,” he said. “We know from published data that undocumented immigrants or migrants coming across the border, over or about three-quarters come from Latin America, Mexico, and Central America, and about 13 to 15% come from Asia and southeast Asia. The overwhelming majority come from Latin America and countries of origin within that region. And so it’s really a systematic approach against folks from that region, since it’s well known that that’s the majority of folks coming through, and then subsequently the majority of the folks at these detention centers.
“This is methodical, in that this was a preventable death, absolutely,” Mendoza said. No children had died in Border Patrol custody for a decade, until the advent of the Trump administration. Even after the death of at least three migrant kids in part from flu since last year, border officials have adamantly refused to vaccinate families against the virus, ignoring a CDC recommendation and basing their excuses for not giving vaccinations on easily debunked lies. Yes, there is a deliberate effort to endanger lives.
Doctors for Camp Closure offered—and is still offering—to give these flu shots for free. The group has since been holding protests outside a CBP facility in California. Mendoza said that they are holding the demonstrations only because border officials have continued to ignore their urgent requests, at one point telling the group to pursue the matter on what turned out to be a nonworking phone number.
Despite the rejections, the doctor said the group is not backing down. “A group of doctors can come in, work along side CBP, and administer these flu vaccinations in a timely, cost-effective manner,” he said. “We can prevent the prevalence of flu infection in the detention center, and its spread.”