The recent in-custody death of an eight-year-old child in our custody in Harlingen, Texas was a deeply upsetting and unacceptable tragedy. We can —and we will— do better to ensure this never happens again.
The CBP Office of Professional Responsibility’s (OPR) updated statement on the investigation of this May 17, 2023 death provides important new information on this tragic death that will inform our efforts to ensure that this does not happen again.
The health and safety of individuals in our custody, our workforce, and our communities are paramount. The Department of Homeland Security Chief Medical Officer’s evaluation of medical care practices and procedures at CBP facilities is ongoing. Upon completion of that evaluation, we will assess and implement associated recommendations, including by ensuring the deployment of additional medical personnel as needed.
In the days since this incident, CBP has taken multiple steps to address deficiencies identified by the ongoing investigation.
Immediately following this incident, we directed a review of all medically fragile individuals and family units in custody to ensure we appropriately prioritize processing for those individuals to minimize the amount of time they spend in our custody. Through these efforts, we have reduced the average time in custody for family units by more than 50% from two weeks ago to today.
As we continue our focus on the healthcare improvements for migrants in CBP custody, the need for additional federal clinical resources providing guidance and oversight has been identified. At the request of the Department’s Acting Chief Medical Officer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will deploy a cadre of United States Public Health Service (USPHS) uniformed clinicians to multiple CBP sites starting next week. These USPHS Commissioned Corps clinicians will work under the direction of the Department’s Office of Health Security to provide this additional medical guidance and oversight capability.
We provided notice to the medical contractor that delivers care in CBP facilities requiring them to review their practices and address deficiencies immediately. Several medical providers involved in this incident have now been prohibited from working in CBP facilities.
We repaired the closed-circuit television system in the Harlingen Station and have initiated a review of the status of these systems across CBP processing facilities to ensure they are operating properly.
Finally, we have mandated that all U.S. Border Patrol and Office of Field Operations personnel review the National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention and Search to ensure comprehension and compliance with this policy. CBP’s uniformed personnel play an important role in the continuum of medical care for individuals in our custody, along with qualified medical providers.
We will continue to provide updates as they become available. We are continuing to review procedures, practices, and equipment to ensure we are protecting those in our care, especially those most vulnerable.