Guatemalan Migrant Girl Who Died In Border Patrol Custody Would Have Been Visibly Sick For Hours, Doctors Say

U.S. Border Patrol agents speak to immigrants.
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A 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died in the custody of U.S. Border Patrol last year would have been visibly ill for hours before her death, doctors told the New York Times.

Jakelin Caal Maquin died at a hospital in El Paso late last year after suffering a bacterial infection. As the report noted, the infection was so advanced by the time of her death that the girl would have been very obviously ill, doctors said, though U.S. officials who examined the girl made no efforts to get immediate treatment until she fell seriously ill.

The newly released medical examination found that she died of streptococcal sepsis, a bacterial infection. The report noted that bacteria was found in the girl’s lungs, adrenal gland, liver, and spleen

There had already been plenty of controversy surrounding Maquin’s death and initial claims from U.S. officials that she died because her father did not give her water for several days. The girl’s family disputed this claim, which was repeated by a number of officials, including President Donald Trump, as officials tried to place blame on him for taking the girl on the journey to the United States.

Caal and her father had crossed the U.S. border in a remote part of New Mexico and surrendered to Border Patrol agents along with a group of dozens of 163 other migrants. The migrants were examined and then placed on a bus for a Border Patrol station close to 90 minutes away, but Caal fell seriously ill during the journey.

Officials said that the girl’s father signed a statement certifying that the girl was healthy, but lawyers for the man claimed that the form was in English, a language he did not speak or understand.

The newly released autopsy has drawn more criticism to U.S. officials for not noticing what would have been a serious and life-threatening illness.

“Something like that takes hours to progress,” Dr. Lee Sanders, the chief of general pediatrics at Stanford University, told the New York Post.

The girl’s death has become a source of major criticism for the Trump administration and its harsh approach to immigration. The administration had already been under fire for its policy of separating immigrant children from their parents after crossing the U.S. border, with images of children being held in detention centers spreading over the summer in a firestorm of international criticism that led Trump to publicly walk back his policy.