Homeland Security Secretary says family are to blame for child’s death under Border Patrol custody

It reportedly took eight hours for agents to provide seven-year-old girl with medical attention

Sarah Harvard
New York
Saturday 15 December 2018 00:33
Kirstjen Nielsen blames family for child's death in Border Patrol custody

Days after a seven-year-old Guatemalan girl died after complications from a septic shock she experienced while in Border Patrol custody, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the child’s family was to blame for her death.

“This is just a very sad example of the dangers of this journey,” Ms Nielsen said on Fox News. “This family chose to cross illegally.”

Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquint travelled with her father, Nery Caal, from a rural indigenous community in the Alta Verapaz region in Guatemala. After crossing the US-Mexico border, the father and daughter joined 163 other migrants and turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents in a remote base in the New Mexico desert.

Two days later, while under US Customs and Border Patrol custody, Ms Caal Maquint died after suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and a fever.

“What happened was they were about 90 miles away from where we could process them,” Ms Nielsen added. “They came in such a large crowd that it took our border patrol folks a couple times to get them all. We gave immediate care, we’ll continue to look into the situation, but again, I cannot stress enough how dangerous this journey is when migrants choose to come here illegally.”

Ms Nielsen, while appearing on the Fox and Friends, said Border Patrol agents gave immediate care. But reports show that the child was held in Border Patrol custody for eight hours before her she stopped breathing and was then rushed to a hospital.

According to the Associated Press, the seven-year-old and her father turned themselves in on the morning of December 6, where there was a small Border Patrol base with water, food, and bathrooms, but did not have medical services. Her father filled out an intake form.

The father and daughter were part of two groups that were being transferred to a Border Patrol base about 90 miles east from where they were found, and did not start the long journey until almost an entire day later on December 7am at 4:30am. The child was vomiting on the bus during the journey, and by the time she arrived at the base at around 6:30am, she was not breathing. Emergency medics discovered fever at an alarming 105.7 degrees, and subsequently airlifted her to a hospital, where she died on December 8 shortly after midnight.

Ms Nielsen did not specify exactly when the seven-year-old girl received “immediate care,” whether that may be when she and her father turned themselves into CBP, or if it was eight hours later after she started having seizures. But base on these reports, it seems that the little girl did not receive care until she stopped breathing.

Last night, Homeland Security doubled down on its attack on the dead girl's family in a statement released on Thursday night.

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“As we have always said, travelling north illegally is extremely dangerous,” the statement said. “Drug cartels, human smugglers and the elements pose deadly risks to anyone who comes across the border illegally.”

“Once again, we are begging parents to not put themselves or their children at risk attempting to enter illegally,” the statement added.

As Splinter pointed out, the very fact that migrants are embarking in long treacherous journeys to cross into the US prove the desperate and dangerous situations these migrants and asylum seekers are fleeing from or are trying to escape. Their situation are put in even more danger when Nielsen’s Homeland Security makes it impossible for these migrants to seek safe refuge.

In their statement, Homeland Security said “Border Patrol always takes care of individuals in their custody and does everything in their power to keep them safe.” A DHS official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters on Friday that the Office of Inspector General, an agency that investigates allegations of misconduct by public employees, will look into the young girl's death.

The death of the child is the most recent death in a string of fatal incidents involving children dying either while under custody of Homeland Security agencies or some time later.

Earlier this year, a Guatemalan toddler died from a respiratory illness she contracted while detained under Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. The toddler and her mother were detained in ICE custody for 20 days, and shortly after being released, she was hospitalised for six weeks until her death. The mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the US government.

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