Family Calls for Investigation Into 7-Year-Old's Death While in Border Patrol Custody
Jakelin Caal Maquin died after making the 2,000-mile journey from Guatemala to the United States.
The family of a 7-year-old girl who died less than 48 hours after crossing into the U.S. From Mexico is calling for a "transparent and neutral investigation" into her death.
Officials said Jakelin Caal Maquin died of dehydration and cardiac arrest, but Jakelin’s family claims her father made sure she was fed and hydrated during their journey from Guatemala, their native country.
"Jakelin and her father came to the United States seeking something that thousands have been seeking for years: An escape from the dangerous situation in their home country," said Ruben Garcia, the director of Annunciation House, who is working with the family. "The family intends to assist in such an investigation into the cause and circumstances of Jakelin's death.”
He read comments from the family as he spoke to the press on Saturday.
Jakelin arrived at the border with her father, Nery Gilberto Caal Cuuz, on Dec. 6 after a more than 2,000-mile journey from Guatemala.
While on the bus to another Border Patrol station, the 7-year-old began vomiting. She wasn’t breathing by the time they arrived at the station and Border Patrol agents revived her twice, according to reports. Jackelin was rushed to an El Paso hospital where she went into cardiac arrest and died in the early hours of Dec. 8.
The group of 163 migrants that the father and daughter arrived with initially were interviewed by Border Patrol about their medical conditions at the time and Cuuz signed a form saying he and Jakelin were healthy, but the form was in English – a language he doesn’t understand. Cuuz speaks Q’eqchi, a Mayan language, and Spanish as a second language.
“It is unacceptable for any government agency to have persons in custody sign documents in a language that they clearly do not understand,” the statement Garcia read on behalf of the family’s attorneys also read.
"The family is seeking an objective and thorough investigation and are asking that investigators will assess this incident within nationally recognized standards for the arrest and custody of children," the attorneys' statement said. "The family intends to to assist in such an investigation into the cause and circumstances of Jakelin’s death."
The Department of Homeland Security said the migrants were offered food and water.
"The initial indication form Providence Hospital is that she passed due to sepsis shock," the DHS said. "Her father was with her."
"Her death is incredibly tragic," the DHS said in a statement shared to Facebook. "The entire DHS community offers their condolences to the family of this child. We thank those Border Patrol agents who rendered life extending aide, and the first responders and emergency medical professionals in New Mexico and Texas who did all they could to save this child."
An autopsy for Jakelin was still pending Monday, according to reports.
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