Experts slam CBP's new migrant health screening plan as 'bare bones,' 'beyond disappointing'
More than one year after migrant children began to die in Customs and Border Protection custody for the first time in a decade, the Trump administration has not prioritized preventing another tragedy of this magnitude: On New Year’s Eve, border officials released a medical screening “plan” that’s being criticized by leading medical professionals as “incredibly frustrating,” “bare bones,” and “beyond disappointing,” CNN reports.
The plan “is lacking in many details and provides health screenings only for children, not adults,” CNN’s report said. Officials say they will roll the plan out in phases, having agents “observe and identify potential medical issues” when they first detain someone, then conducting “health interviews” of people under 18. There’s no clarity about any of that will look like, and ”The agency did not say when this new screening plan would be rolled out, or if parts were already in place,” CNN continued. In other words, Border Patrol took a year to roll out something that should already be happening.
“To me, this is beyond disappointing. It’s incredibly frustrating,” Dr. Joshua Sharfstein of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told CNN. “This agency is responsible for people’s lives and should act like it is.” Dr. Paul Spiegel of the Center for Humanitarian Health at Johns Hopkins told CNN, “It took CBP this long to come up with something like this, and it’s so bare bones,” and said it may miss vulnerable populations, such as pregnant people. Immigration policy expert Aaron Reichlin-Melnick tweeted that not only is the plan incomplete, but it’s also going to be delayed even more. “It’s going to … take another 90 days to figuring out a plan for delivering increased medical screenings of kids,” he wrote. “You can tell this is a real priority for them.”
The plan comes more than a year after 7-year-old Jakelin Ameí Rosmery Caal Maquin and 8-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo became the first migrant children to die in CBP custody in 10 years. More children have died in federal immigration custody since, including 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez, who languished alone and died next to his cell’s toilet. Not only does surveillance footage obtained by ProPublica show that border officials lied about checking in on the boy, but border officials have also refused to give detained kids flu shots, even after it was determined that Carlos died in part from the flu.
“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,” Dr. Mario Mendoza, a member of humanitarian group Doctors for Camp Closure, told Anderson Cooper last month, 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.”
CNN reported, “Dr. Katherine McKenzie, director of the Yale Center for Asylum Health, said the screenings were ‘common sense’ and questioned why it took the deaths of four children before the agency came up with the plan.” McKenzie told the network, “If they had done these screenings earlier, perhaps the children wouldn’t have died. If you’re taking people into your custody, you’re responsible for their health.”