The White House has defended the US Border Patrol after a seven-year-old Guatemalan girl died of exhaustion and dehydration while in custody.
But the child’s death – and the border agency’s week-long delay in disclosing it – prompted an outcry on Capitol Hill.
The case intensified scrutiny of Border Patrol detention practices and raised questions about whether agents’ negligence contributed to Jakelin Caal Maquin’s death.
It also sparked concerns that the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown has funnelled migrants into more dangerous areas along the border.
Homeland Security officials said they had launched an inspector general’s investigation into the death and whether regulations were followed, and were awaiting results of an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
Hogan Gidley, the deputy White House press secretary, called the girl’s death “a horrific, tragic situation” and “100 per cent preventable”.
But he blamed Congress, and especially Democrats, for not passing what he called “some common-sense laws to disincentivise people” from crossing the border illegally.
Gidley also placed responsibility for the girl’s death on her father, rather than any consequence of policy decisions.
“Does the administration take responsibility for a parent taking a child on a trek through Mexico to get to this country?” Gidley asked.
Jakelin was with her father and 161 other migrants who crossed into a remote, rugged part of New Mexico last week.
They were about 90 miles north of the border around December 6 when they turned themselves in to three Border Patrol agents.
The child died just over 24 hours later in custody.
Her name is Jakelin.
Her full name is:
Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin.
She was a 7 year old girl from rural Guatemala and she died of
thirst and shock
in American custody.
This is a sin. It’s a crime and a sin.
Shame on Trump and this bigoted cold hearted government.
— Shaun King (@shaunking) December 14, 2018
She was taken to the Lordsburg Border Patrol station, Homeland Security officials said, but by the time she arrived there, she had begun to suffer seizures, and she’d stopped breathing.
She was takento Providence Children’s Hospital in El Paso, Texas, but died after a heart attack early on December 8.
Tests at the hospital showed brain swelling and physicians diagnosed the girl with liver failure.
Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol’s parent agency, initially said the girl “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days,” but on Friday officials said the migrants were offered water.
The agency did not publicly acknowledge the girl’s death, or report it to Congress, until after The Washington Post reported it Thursday night
-AAP and Los Angeles Times