A seven-year-old girl from Guatemala died last week while being detained by US border police, the Washington Post reported, citing official sources in the body. The girl crossed the border irregularly with her father and a large group of immigrants. According to the border agents, he had not eaten or drunk for days. On Friday morning, the girl was identified as Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, from the Alta Verapaz region.
On December 6, around ten o’clock in the evening, a group of 163 immigrants surrendered to border agents south of Lordsburg, New Mexico. She was with her father, Nery Gilberto Caal Cruz, 29, according to CNN, citing the Guatemalan Consulate in Del Rio, Texas. Lordsburg is the only town in a large desert area more than 250 kilometers west of El Paso (Texas), the only large population in hundreds of kilometers of border. On the other hand, the nearest large town is Nogales, at almost 300 kilometers. In this desert area, the temperatures at this time of year do not exceed zero degrees at night.
The Guatemalan consul in Del Rio, Tekandi Paniagua, told CNN that the girl had vomited and had started to have a fever on the way from her meeting with the agents to the immigration detention center. There she was attended by a medical team, according to the consul.
About eight hours after being arrested, the girl began to feel dizzy. The police report quoted by the Post says that the emergency happened at 6.25. According to a statement from the body, the child “had not eaten or drunk water for several days.” When the emergency services arrived, I had a fever of 40.9 degrees.
The girl was taken by helicopter from Lordsburg to a medical center in El Paso. There he went into cardiac arrest, but “was revived,” according to the newspaper. “However, the girl did not recover and died in the hospital less than 24 hours after her transfer.” The father is in El Paso. The border police (CBP) has opened an investigation to ensure that all protocols were followed.
A spokesperson for CBP, Andrew Meehan, expressed to the Post the condolences of the agency towards the girl’s family. “The Border Patrol agents took all possible measures to save the life of the girl in the most difficult circumstances. As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we sympathize with the death of any child. ”
The area where the events occurred is one of the most dangerous to cross irregularly to the United States, because the border is far from the main road and any point populated, on both sides. It is not clear where the group of 163 people crossed. Normally, people traffickers keep groups in safe houses in small towns in Mexico until they see the opportunity to pass. It is not uncommon for immigrants to enter the desert deceived, convinced that they will reach a great city in a few hours. Every year, the extreme conditions of some parts of the border take dozens of lives.
The number of arrests at the US border rose significantly in 2018 compared to the previous year, which saw an unprecedented downturn just after inaugurating the presidency of Donald Trump. Most of this increase is due to the arrival of families with children. In the entire fiscal year of 2018 (from September to September), almost 400,000 people were arrested. Only in October and November, more than 100,000 people have been arrested.
The increase in family arrivals led the Trump government to a radical policy in which it began to separate children from parents, to serve as a deterrent. The social reaction against this practice forced to cancel it a few days and caused the scrutiny of the conditions in which irregular immigrants are arrested along the southern border of the country.
At least two Texas politicians, Congressman Joaquín Castro and former candidate for Senator Beto O’Rourke, reacted on Thursday night on Twitter asking for a full investigation into the circumstances of the Guatemalan girl’s death.
Castro, who chairs the group of Hispanic congressmen in Washington, published a statement in which he recalled that the tightening of conditions to ask for asylum on the border, as the Donald Trump government has done, does not reduce the arrivals of people but pushes the migratory pressure towards depopulated areas where it is more dangerous to cross. Heavyweights such as Senator Kamala Harris and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton joined the demand for responsibilities.
The political controversy surrounding the responsibility in this event grew in a matter of hours until forced to pronounce the Secretary of the Interior, Kirstjen Nielsen, on whom the border protection depends. In an interview with Fox on Friday morning, Nielsen called the death of the girl “devastating.”
“This is a very sad example of the dangers of travel. This family decided to cross illegally. What happened was that they were 90 miles (144 kilometers) from a place where we could prosecute them and they arrived in such a large group that the Border Patrol took a couple of trips to collect them all. ” Nielsen said they were given “immediate attention.”
The White House spoke through a spokesman, who said that this was an “unnecessary and one hundred percent avoidable” death. Spokesman Hogan Gidley, quoted by Efe, said the responsibility is for lack of laws that “discourage” illegal crossing of the border and encourage people to do so through ports of entry.