7-Year-old Indigenous Girl Dies at US Border While in Federal Custody

Published December 15, 2018 

Jakelin Caal Maquin died while in custody of U.S. Customs and Boder Protection

LORDSBURG, N.M. —  A seven-year-old girl from Guatemala died of dehydration and shock at the U.S. southern border near Lordsburg, New Mexico while in custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on December 7, 2018.

According to CBP records, the girl, Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, and her father were part of a group of 163 people who turned themselves in about 10 p.m. on December 6, 2018. About eight and half hours later, Jakelin began having seizures at 6:25 a.m.  Emergency responders, who arrived soon after, measured her body temperature at 105.7 degrees. She reportedly had not eaten or drank water for several days. She was flown to a hospital in El Paso, Texas.  She died later that day.

It is now known why she was not given water–or what transpired–during the eight hours prior to her seizures.

Her family is from a mountain hamlet of San Antonio Secortez, a small hamlet with 420 residents, where some of the people speak indigenous, Mayan Q’eqch’, language. Most of the men also speak Spanish.

Jakelin death came three days after her seventh birthday.

Her death brought the ire of Congresswoman Norma Torres (D-Calif.), who was born in Guatemala, immigrated to the U.S. as a child, and is currently the only member of Congress of Central American descent.

Torres released this statement:

“I am appalled by the Trump administration’s response to the death of Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquina, a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl in Department of Homeland Security (DHS) custody.

“Let’s be clear: when a U.S. government agency has a 7-year-old girl in its custody, that girl’s health and safety is the responsibility of that agency. But DHS has issued an official statement that tries to wash its hands of all culpability. That’s unacceptable: they must come clean with the facts.

“I am even more disgusted that Secretary Kristjen Nielsen is already blaming this death on Jakelin and her father. She should know better than to blame the victim. Making the decision to migrate is not easy, and migrants know that the journey is risky. They are coming here because they have no other choice: their governments have failed to protect them from gangs or allow them the possibility of a decent life. If anyone besides DHS deserves blame for this tragedy, it is the corrupt governments in Central America that are more interested in lining their pockets than improving the lives of their people.

“The DHS Inspector General must investigate and there must be accountability for Jakelin’s death. I am also calling on my colleagues to hold a hearing on this issue before the end of Congress. But that is not enough. These deaths must stop. DHS must focus on bringing about reforms to ensure humane and responsible treatment of every single man, woman, and child in their custody. If Secretary Nielsen cannot make those reforms happen, she should resign. And if the Trump administration is serious about the issues at our border, it must develop a real strategy to address the poverty, violence, and corruption that are forcing too many families to risk their lives trying to reach safety.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated her family’s first language is Quechua. The family actually speaks the indigenous Mayan Q’eqch’language



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