The ACLU blamed a “lack of accountability and a culture of cruelty” at the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agency (CPB) for the death of a seven-year-old girl who was in immigration custody last week, calling for an in-depth investigation into the child’s fate.
After crossing the U.S.-Mexico border with her father and 163 other asylum seekers, the child, whose full name was Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, was taken into CBP custody in New Mexico on December 6. She began having seizures hours later, and was taken to a hospital after she was found to have a 105.7 degree temperature. She died 24 hours later at the hospital of dehydration and shock, according to the Washington Post. The Post reported that it wasn’t clear if Jakelin had been given food and water after being taken into custody.
The ACLU called the child’s death “indefensible” and urged Americans to stand firmly against the Trump administration’s inhumane immigration policy, which has included the separation of thousands of children from their parents and guardians as well as prolonged detentions for families.
As the news of Jakelin’s death was reported, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provoked shock and outrage as it released a statement essentially making an example of the seven-year-old, noting that her fate should serve as a reminder that crossing the U.S. border is dangerous for refugees and suggesting that her father is to blame for her death.
“This is a disgusting statement dripping with cruelty, contempt, and inhumanity,” MSNBC journalist Chris Hayes said. “Everyone who worked on it should be ashamed of themselves.”
On Twitter, Reveal reporter Aura Bogado, who has extensively covered the effects of the U.S. government’s immigration policies on children and families, criticized much of the corporate media’s coverage of Jakelin’s death and shared the conditions asylum seekers face in DHS custody:
“This young girl’s death could very well have been prevented if the DHS implemented search and rescue activities along the border zone with the involvement of medical professionals,” said Kathryn Hampton, a program officer for Physicians for Human Rights. “Decisions about the medical treatment needed for migrants and asylum seekers who are rescued in the desert should be made by a health professional with medical training, not by a law enforcement agent whose expertise and primary mission is focused on apprehension and arrest.
“Her death must serve as a reminder to the U.S. administration and to all those who serve within immigration and border enforcement agencies that the United States constitution states that no individual may be deprived of the right to life without due process of law. All U.S. policies and practices should aim to ensure protection of life, regardless of migratory status. At each of its borders, the U.S. government must uphold mandatory obligations to relieve imminent danger to lives and safety as a first priority.”