Children’s blood is on our hands

We have blood on our hands. It’s the blood of six innocent immigrant children who were held in U.S. custody after coming on their own or with their families to our borders begging for safety.

The names of these six lost souls are Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle (10), Jakelin Caal Maquin (7), Felipe Gomez Alonzo (8), Juan de Leon Gutierrez (16), Wilmer Josue Ramirez Vasquez (2) and Carlos Hernandez Vasquez (16). They all died of preventable and treatable conditions while being held by U.S. They all died because of the appalling conditions which they had been forced to live in.

Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle died from complications with a congenital heart defect that was not monitored. (2) Jakelin Caal Maquin died from sepsis that went untreated as she was forced to board a bus that took her to a detention center in New Mexico. (3) Felipe Gomez Alonzo died on Christmas Eve of an untreated staphylococcus infection. (1) Juan de Leon Gutierrez died of a brain infection which likely came from an untreated sinus infection. (5) Wilmer Josue Ramirez Vasquez was a baby, alive for only 30 months. He died of untreated pneumonia. (4) Carlos Hernandez Vasquez was found unresponsive in his bed after being diagnosed with the flu only a few days earlier. (1)

If you are noticing a pattern with these deaths, you are not the only one. These children would still be breathing if they had received the most basic health care that almost any hospital in the U.S. can offer. If they had been monitored by an adequate amount of staff, been given hygiene products, been given vaccines and antibiotics, had access to translators to communicate their symptoms, had legal advocates or not been held in overcrowded quarters, these children would still be alive. Healthy children should not be dying of the flu, but they are in these camps. These children, who came to our border at the most vulnerable points of their lives, were neglected because our country does not care about them. We thought so little of them that we took them away from their families, kept them behind barbed-wire fences and did not give them the health care that we give our own children. This country failed to deliver on its promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It couldn’t even give them humanity.

The reason that these children died is because the staff supervising them was not equipped with adequate training or resources to deal with thousands of asylum seekers. Though our commander-in-chief has gone blue in the face talking about the immigration crisis here at home, his administration has done less than the bare minimum to deal with it. And after clear human rights violations were exposed, instead of calling for an investigation or creating a committee to improve quality of life in these detention centers, our government turned away from this disgusting situation. They let these detention centers turn into concentration camps.

Our country, which went to war to abolish such systems, is now harboring its own hypocrisy. I am asking my community here in New York’s 21st Congressional District to show more love and humility than anyone in Washington, D.C., has, and I know we are capable of it. We must act on this now and not turn away. For as Holocaust survivor and activist Elie Wiesel once said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” You must demand legislation that either drastically improves this situation or closes these camps. You must demand that families stay together after detainment and that they be treated as human beings. This is not a partisan issue. To our lawmakers who have consistently sided with these inhumane policies, ask them why they have not thought of these seven children.

Please donate, if you are able, to causes like the American Civil Liberties Union as well as the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. If you can, please also attend the Lights for Liberty vigil on July 12 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Riverside Park in Saranac Lake. Do something, anything, but do not stand idly by. We must help stop this awful situation before there is any more blood on our hands.

Madeline Clark lives in Saranac Lake.


1. Hennessy-Fiske, Molly, and Kate Linthicum, “Six migrant children have died in U.S. custody. Here’s what we know about them,” Los Angeles Times, May 24, 2019, www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-migrant-child-border-deaths-20190524-story.html

2. “U.S. border: Sixth death of migrant child in custody,” BBC News, May 23, 2019, www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-48375144

3. Montes, Aaron, and Sara Sanchez, “Months after Jakelin Caal’s death, medical examiner releases autopsy report,” El Paso Times, March 29, 2019, www.elpasotimes.com/story/news/2019/03/29/jakelin-caal-autopsy-report-released-el-paso-medical-examiner-migrant-girl/3313850002/

4. Waldrop, Theresa, and Dave Alsup, “Guatemalan toddler dies in U.S. custody, report says,” CNN, May 16, 2019, www.cnn.com/2019/05/16/us/guatemala-toddler-death-us-custody/index.html

5. Kates, Graham, “‘A very humble child full of dreams’: Teacher describes migrant boy who died in U.S. custody,” CBS News, May 20, 2019, www.cbsnews.com/news/a-very-humble-child-full-of-dreams-teacher-describes-migrant-boy-who-died-in-u-s-custody/