7-year-old dies in Border Patrol custody after being separated from family that now disputes agency’s account
According to Slate, a seven-year-old Guatemalan migrant named Jakelin Caal Maquin died while in the custody of the U.S. Border Patrol. Initially, the Border Patrol claimed that she died of dehydration after being deprived of food and water for several days, according to a statement released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). However, reports from immigration officials appear feature a form which was filled out by Maquin’s father, Neddie Gilberto Cruz stating that she was in good health.
Cruz and his daughter were part of a larger group of migrants who attempted to cross a border in New Mexico on December 6th, according to CBS News. 8 hours after she was in custody, Maquin began having seizures and EMT’s recorded the girl’s body temperature as registering at 105.7 degrees.
According to the DHS, Maquin had been vomiting on the bus her and her father were on before they crossed the border, and upon reaching the Border Patrol Station in Lordsburg, New Mexico, Cruz told agents that she was not breathing. According to lawyers for the family, Enrique Morneo and Elena Esparza, the pair were not traveling through the desert and did not lack either food or water. The attorneys released a longer statement, which reads, “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… This was their right under U.S. and international law.”
Business Insider points out that Maquin is not the first child to die after being detained by the DHS, but her death functions as a stark reminder that the DHS doesn’t do enough to keep migrants alive. In May, Yazmin Juarez brought her 19-month-old daughter, Mairee, along with her to flee a life of poverty in Guatemala. They were captured by Border Patrol agents and held for three weeks at a detention center in Daley, Texas where Mairee became ill. In a lawsuit, Juarez claimed that she told the DHS officials at the facility that her daughter needed medical attention, but received only medicine that had no effect before her daughter died.
Last month, Juarez’s lawyers filed a $60 million claim against the U.S. Government, which has six months to respond before the claim can become a lawsuit. On a tour of a DHS facility in El Paso, Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat who represents El Paso, remarked, “We’ve turned our back not just on these people but on our best traditions. We are causing suffering and in the case of Jakelin, seven years old, we are causing death,”