María Ponce,, 202-394-2139

Issued December 09, 2019

SEIU’s Sáenz: Tragic death of 16-year-old is a cruel reminder that our government needs to put families and children first


WASHINGTON—SEIU International Executive Vice President and iAmerica Action President Rocio Sáenz issued the following statement in response to the preventable death of 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vazquez while in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody earlier this year: 

“Everyone, regardless of where we come from or what we look like, deserves to be healthy in America. Carlos Gregorio’s death was tragic and a cruel reminder that families and children who are seeking safety in our country belong in healthy environments where they can thrive. 

“To add insult to injury we now know according to news reports, that Carlos Gregorio’s death could have been prevented if only our government had taken the necessary precautions to ensure he had the proper medical attention to treat the flu.

“It is morally reprehensible that these types of deaths continue to happen under our government’s watch. This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of the death of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin who also died in DHS custody. 

“This last October, our sisters and brothers at the Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare sent a letter to DHS asking to reverse the Trump administration’s cruel policy to deny flu shots to people being held in U.S. detention facilities. During the same time, SEIU members and allies peacefully gathered outside of a federal immigration detention center in California to protest against the policy. Yet, despite calls from public health officials for preventive measures ahead of the next flu season, our government still has no plans to vaccinate the people currently held in immigration detention facilities. 

“We must and can do better. The Department of Homeland Security must take immediate action to ensure the well being of everyone held in detention so that no more children die mercilessly in the name of our government.”


The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) unites 2 million diverse members in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. SEIU members working in the healthcare industry, in the public sector and in property services believe in the power of joining together on the job to win higher wages and benefits and to create better communities while fighting for a more just society and an economy that works for all of us, not just corporations and the wealthy.