Young girl dies of a bacterial infection while in US border detention
compiled by Gaynor Kuye
published: December 2020
Updates on this case listed at the foot of this item
The family of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin who died in the custody of US border officials after crossing the border vigorously disputed the American government’s claim that she had not had food or water for days before she tragically died from dehydration and shock after running a high fever.
Jakelin and her father, both from Guatemala, were traveling in a group of 163 people, including 50 children without a parent, when they were apprehended at around 9.15pm on 6 December.
Her grandfather remembered her jumping with joy when she found out they were migrating. She was going from a life where her family of seven survived on $5 a day, and where she’d never owned a toy or a pair of shoes, to one where she hoped she’d learn to read and write, and, eventually, join her father in making money to send to their family back home.
Border patrol officials claimed that their agents did everything they could to save her – but that she had not had food or water for days when she began vomiting and eventually stopped breathing, later dying in a Texas hospital.
There was uproar as Jakelin’s family and their supporters put her death down to the harsh immigration and border policies that were being pursued by the Trump administration. Many of the Trump administration’s critics blamed the Border Patrol saying Jakelin was either the victim of misconduct or neglect or that they simply did not do enough to save her.
The Trump administration also tried to bar people from seeking asylum outside ports of entry, but a federal appeals court temporarily blocked the ban because the government could not prove it was legal. The Trump administration asked the supreme court to reinstate the ban.
There were also questions about why the CBP commissioner, Kevin McAleenan, did not mention Jakelin’s death when he testified to the Senate judiciary committee that the agency was struggling to deal with the large numbers of families and children crossing the border. The CBP only confirmed that a child had died in response to a Washington Post inquiry nearly a week after Jakelin had died.
It was reported that the little girl was suffering from a bacterial infection that was so advanced she probably would have been visibly sick for many hours, claimed several physicians who reviewed a newly released autopsy report of her death. By the time Jakelin arrived at a children’s hospital in El Paso with seizures and difficulty breathing, she already had severe blood abnormalities, according to a part of the report that summarized her condition in the emergency room of the Children’s Hospital at the Hospitals of Providence Memorial Campus.
Jakelin’s death has underscored the dangers migrants face when traveling to the U.S. and added to the criticism of the conditions they can experience while in custody.
“When Jakelin Caal Maquin presented to the Border Patrol facility in New Mexico, there was no specific review of experiences, signs or symptoms that would have identified that she was sick,” said Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., in an interview with NPR. “There was no physical examination including a very basic vital signs that would have most likely identified that she had a fever… or a fast heart rate.”
The Associated Press said that Donald Trump was misrepresenting the circumstances of Jakelin’s death as he sought to steer any potential blame for it away from his administration. Trump, after mockingly painting asylum seekers as a “con job” in a rally the previous night, asserted that Jakelin was given no water by her father during their trek to a remote border area and that the dad acknowledged blame for his daughter’s death on Dec. 8. Those assertions were not supported by any records.
The family of said goodbye to little Jakelin in a funeral in San Antonio Secortez, Guatemala on Christmas Day 2018.
“The sun shone and a small speaker played religious songs at the graveside where around 150 people gathered to bid Jakelin farewell,” wrote Reuters photographer Carlos Barria, who covered the funeral. “Relatives and neighbours took turns carrying the small white coffin, trudging along a marshy, muddy road to a tiny cemetery where only seven grey tombs marked the earth.”
The Cox news group said; “The U.S. administration could reduce the danger of the border crossing by facilitating legal entry into the U.S. for asylum seekers. In particular, it could end its “metering” policy in which asylum seekers are turned away from high-traffic ports of entry for days or weeks (or longer); U.S. officials argue that they would need to invest a lot of money in port capacity to have enough room, but that’s a thing that could be done.
“Or the administration could work to make life better in the Northern Triangle countries people are fleeing, making it more appealing to stay rather than less appealing to leave. Officials at both DHS and the State Department are stressing the importance of development aid from the US and Mexico — but it’s not the administration’s highest priority.
Anger grows after death of Guatemalan migrant girl held in US
16 December 2018
Guatemalan migrant girl, seven, dies in US border patrol custody
14 December 2018