(AP Photo/Oliver de Ros)
The Department of Homeland Security has not been transparent or forthcoming about the recent deaths of two children in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Under the Federal Records Act, DHS is required to retain records relevant to the deaths of Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin and Felipe Gómez Alonzo and the care of similarly situated children in the custody of CBP.
The American people have the right to know the circumstances behind these tragic deaths. The Department and CBP’s lack of openness and transparency around these tragedies—in combination with the significant public interest in understanding fully how two small children could, only weeks apart, tragically die while in CBP custody—gives rise to our concerns that CBP may also fall short on fulfilling its various record preservation obligations. These concerns are, of course, heightened for this Administration, which is marked by its distinct cruelty towards immigrants and disregard for legal obligations.
We and the Center for American Progress (CAP) sent a letter to the top lawyers at DHS and CBP demanding that DHS and CBP take all necessary steps to fulfill their record preservation obligations to allow for a full public accounting of the facts and circumstances surrounding these tragedies. This includes preserving video or audio recordings of CBP interactions with Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin and Felipe Gómez Alonzo, video surveillance footage from cameras stationed at any of the various CBP facilities in which the children were detained or held–even temporarily–while in CBP custody, medical records including any notes, charts, or discharge summaries detailing medical treatment or health screenings provided to the children while they were in CBP custody and retained by CBP, and other related records.
We have requested that DHS publicly release a statement affirming the Department’s commitment to properly preserving records under the FRA, and detail a plan of action for ensuring CBP meets those obligations. We requested a written response within 30 days.