A 7-year-old Guatemalan girl taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents last week died two days later of dehydration and septic shock, putting further scrutiny on the conditions of detention facilities at the border.
The girl and her father were taken into custody around 10 p.m. Dec. 6, accused of illegally crossing into the United States, Border Patrol officials told The Washington Post. The group of 163 people approached CBP agents south of Lordsburg, New Mexico, to turn themselves in.
The Associated Press reported that an official with Guatemala’s foreign ministry identified the girl as Jackeline Caal. Her father was identified as Nery Caal, 29, of Raxruha, a town in the northern Guatemalan department of Alta Verapaz.
Ministry officials told the AP that Jackeline was feverish and vomiting as she and the other migrants were being taken to the Border Patrol station in Lordsburg.
Around 6:25 a.m. the next day, the girl began having seizures, according to CBP records obtained by the Post. Paramedics who responded to the detention center found her temperature to be 105.7 degrees.
The girl reportedly had not eaten or had water in several days, the Post said. Migrants taken into custody are typically given food and water, but it was not known Thursday if the girl had received nourishment or medical care before her seizures began.
She was taken by helicopter to Providence Children’s Hospital in El Paso, where she went into cardiac arrest, but was revived temporarily. The girl died Saturday morning, less than 24 hours after being taken to the hospital.
The Post reported that an initial diagnosis by doctors at the hospital indicated the girl died of septic shock, dehydration and a high fever. An autopsy is scheduled, but it could be weeks before the results are available.
Andrew Meehan, a CBP spokesman, told the newspaper that the agency sends its “sincerest condolences” to the girl’s family.
“Border Patrol agents took every possible step to save the child’s life under the most trying of circumstances,” Meehan said. “As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child.”
The ACLU Border Rights Center issued a statement Thursday, stating that a lack of accountability and a “culture of cruelty” within the Border Patrol have worsened policies and led to migrant deaths.
“This tragedy represents the worst possible outcome when people, including children, are held in inhumane conditions,” the statement read.
The organization said that President Donald Trump’s militarization of the border has driven desperate migrants fleeing violence in their native countries into the harshest, deadliest deserts along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The fact that it took a week for this to come to light shows the need for transparency for CBP,” the statement read. “We call for a rigorous investigation into how this tragedy happened and serious reforms to prevent future deaths.”
The Post reported that the number of arrests of migrants traveling as families has exploded this year. November saw a record number of “family unit members” -- 25,172, which accounted for 58 percent of the migrants taken into custody last month.
Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan testified Tuesday before the Senate about the holding cells used to house migrants. McAleenan called the cells “incompatible” with the large groups of families coming to the border seeking asylum.
“Our Border Patrol stations were built decades ago to handle mostly male single adults in custody, not families and children,” McAleenan testified, according to the Post.
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