The National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) has joined the ACLU in calling for an investigation into the death of a 7-year-old Guatemalan child taken into custody by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in a very remote part of New Mexico last Friday. The girl, Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, did not receive emergency care for an-hour-and-a-half and later died from severe dehydration and septic shock after a strenuous journey crossing the border with her father. They were part of a group of 163 people who were turning themselves in to border agents.
"The death of this Guatemalan child is tragic, shameful and could have been prevented," said Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. "The CBP has historically been known to abuse migrants, and even now, families and children are being held in freezing cold detention centers called 'iceboxes'. There are few, adequate provisions for them like blankets and food, and many sleep on concrete floors and drink contaminated water. This reprehensible and cruel treatment eventually forces migrants to agree to leave and be deported, back to their homelands to once again face possible physical violence and even death," stated Nogales.
CBP officials said Caal Maquin and her father were in custody for about eight hours before she began having seizures. Emergency medical technicians were called in and discovered the girl's fever was 105.7 degrees. At one point she stopped breathing, and after resuscitating her twice, she was airlifted to a hospital in El Paso, Texas where she later died from cardiac arrest with her father at her side. The girl's death was finally disclosed by CBP only after the Washington Post inquired about it last night. Today, White House press secretary Hogan Gidley said the Trump Administration takes no blame for the death, adding "Does the administration take responsibility for a parent taking a child on a trek through Mexico to get to this country? No."
Meanwhile, in a widely criticized statement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has firmly placed the blame on the father who allowed the girl to take the treacherous journey. DHS is internally investigating the death, while congressional Democrats are promising an inquiry of their own.
This at a time when the Trump administration is attempting to ban migrants from seeking asylum if they cross the border illegally. Two federal courts have temporarily blocked that ban, but this week, the administration has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate it.
"The Trump administration is partly at fault for its policy of delaying immigrants at legal ports of entry, which forces migrants to risk their lives by making dangerous treks and waiting weeks, sometimes months, in dangerous border towns," said Nogales. "The president also relentlessly sows racial divisions and spreads fear into the hearts and minds of millions of Americans by attacking migrants as criminals and describing a massive surge of migrants about to descend on and 'assault' our border. In order to stem the increasing migrant deaths like Jakelin's, we must embrace families fleeing from military and oppressive regimes in their homelands and continue to fight for their safe refuge, freedom and right to live legally in America." This is not an isolated case. The death of 7-year-old Caal Maquin comes after a toddler died in May just after being released from a family detention facility in Texas.