RELEASE: CAP and Democracy Forward Put DHS on Notice to Preserve Agency Records Related to the Deaths of 2 Minors

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress and Democracy Forward notified the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of its obligations under the Federal Records Act (FRA) 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 U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

To date, DHS has not been forthcoming or transparent about the recent deaths of these two young children. Now, furloughs at the DHS Office of Inspector General and Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties have hampered investigations into these deaths. As a result, the letter makes clear that DHS and CBP must take all the necessary steps to fulfill their record preservation obligations for a full public accounting of the facts and circumstances surrounding these tragedies.

According to the letter, records subject to the FRA’s preservation obligations would include the following:

  1. Video or audio recordings documenting CBP interactions with Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin and Felipe Gómez Alonzo at the point of arrest, inspection, processing, or transport, whether obtained through the Centralized Video Surveillance System (CAVSS) or another means
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. Medical records, including discharge paperwork and post-discharge care instructions, provided by hospital staff to CBP officials
  5. Records provided to hospital staff by CBP officials describing or making assurances concerning the post-discharge care that would be made available to the children
  6. Records provided to hospital staff by CBP officials describing the locations and conditions to which the children would return
  7. Autopsy reports for Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin and Felipe Gómez Alonzo
  8. Any forms generated in the course of their arrest, detention, or transfer
  9. Memos or reports containing post-incident assessments of CBP conduct
  10. All records created on or after January 20, 2017, related to health emergencies involving minor children that occurred within 72 hours of their entry into CBP custody
  11. All records created on or after January 20, 2017, related to incidents, practices, guidance, complaints, or problems regarding medical treatment, health screenings, food, water, welfare checks, overcrowding, temperature, and all other conditions of confinement or transport for undocumented people apprehended and/or detained at or near the Antelope Wells port of entry and/or Camp Bounds
  12. All records created on or after January 20, 2017, related to prior incidents, practices, guidance, complaints, or problems regarding medical treatment, health screenings, food, water, welfare checks, overcrowding, temperature, and all other conditions of confinement or transport for undocumented people apprehended at or near the Paso del Norte port of entry and/or detained at the El Paso Border Station and/or Alamogordo Station
  13. All records created on or after January 20, 2017, related to services for people whose first language is Q’eqchi’, Chuj, or another Mayan language, including translation and medical care, and/or related to health problems involving people whose first language is Q’eqchi’, Chuj, or another Mayan language

“To ameliorate [concerns by Congress and the public], your office should take immediate steps to ensure that CBP has preserved, and will maintain proper custody of, all records relating to the deaths of Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin and Felipe Gómez Alonzo, as required by the FRA,” reads the letter. “Your office should further publicly release a statement affirming the Department’s commitment to properly preserving records under the FRA, and detailing a plan of action for ensuring CBP meets those obligations here. Finally, we request that your office provide a written response to this letter within thirty (30) days.”

Full text of the letter is available here.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Rafael J. Medina at rjmedina@americanprogress.org or 202.748.5313.