Jakelin Caal, was a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who had been traveling through Mexico with her father in hopes of eventually reaching asylum in the United States. After finally reaching a remote border crossing in New Mexico earlier this month, they thought their journey was nearing a turning point. However, they, along with the rest of the migrant group they were traveling with, were arrested prior to crossing over. Jakelin and her father were both placed on a bus en route to the nearest Border Control station. Unfortunately, Caal became suddenly ill before their arrival, according to the Huffington Post.
Official U.S. reports claimed that the 7-year-old began vomiting and struggling for breath. While border control agents reportedly did all they could to save the girl, her condition quickly worsened. She was transported to a Texas hospital where she later died. The reports also suggested that the child had not been fed or given any water for days, even as she had traveled countless miles through the desert. Her family is now disputing these claims.
NBC News confirms this is Jakelin Ameí Rosmery Caal Maquin, the 7 year old girl who died in Border Patrol custody. pic.twitter.com/76BmoQhDEm— Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) December 14, 2018
Jakelin’s father, 29-year-old Nery Gilberto Caal Cuz, says that his daughter appeared to be in perfectly good health prior to being taken into custody. She was given plenty of food and water and time to rest in between their on-foot travel. While he had been given forms to sign regarding his daughter and her health, he says he was unable to fully understand them. Nery communicated with border agents in Spanish, but claims the Mayan Q’eqchi’ language as his native tongue.
Jakelin’s family is now pushing for a full investigation regarding the details of her death.
“It is unacceptable for any government agency to have persons in custody sign documents in a language that they clearly do not understand,” the family said in a statement. They hope the investigation will find out if border officials really took every possible measure in order to prevent the child’s death. The official cause of Jakelin’s death has not yet been publicly released.
A private memorial ceremony for the 7-year-old was held in Texas on Friday. Jakelin’s father had the opportunity to see his daughter’s body one last time before it was sent back to Guatemala, her final resting place. Ruben Garcia, the director of the shelter where Jakelin’s father is currently staying, spoke out about her death.
“All of us were moved by the depth of his faith and his trust that God’s hand is in all of this,” he said.