Her name was Jakelin Caal Maquin. She had traveled with her father from a rural indigenous community in Guatemala’s impoverished Alta Verapaz region.
They were among a group of 163 migrants detained by Border Patrol agents the night of December 6 — three days after her birthday — in a remote area of the New Mexico desert, officials said.
Two days later, 7-year-old Jakelin was dead, Customs and Border Protection’s officials said Friday. She had vomited and stopped breathing while in Border Patrol custody. Jakelin later went into cardiac arrest and suffered brain swelling at a Texas hospital.
“Without the lifesaving measures undertaken by Border Patrol, this child would have likely died in the desert alone without any medical care whatsoever,” a Department of Homeland Security official said Friday. “The entire department is heartbroken by this loss of life.”
The department’s Inspector General’s office is investigating the death and said its findings will be released publicly. The US government officials spoke on a conference call with reporters and insisted they not be identified by name.
The 163 migrants included 50 unaccompanied minors
Jakelin and her father, Nery Gilberto Caal, 29, hailed from the Mayan Q’eqchi’ community of Raxruhá, said Tekandi Paniagua, Guatemalan general counsel in Del Río, Texas.
They were part of a group of undocumented immigrants loaded onto a bus at 4:30 a.m. December 7 at a Customs and Border Protection operating base near the Antelope Wells port of entry in New Mexico, the CBP said. The immigrants included about 50 unaccompanied minors.
One of four agents involved in the detention conducted an initial screening, including an interview and observation to determine whether medical care was needed, according to CBP. The screening revealed no health issues, the agency said. Her father also claimed the girl was healthy on a government form.
“Our agents are almost always outnumbered in the middle of the night,” the CBP official said. “There is no indication that it was a lack of attention that resulted in this. The questions were asked. The observations were made and there was no indication that she had any health conditions.”
The unaccompanied minors were the first to be transported by bus to a Border Patrol station about 95 miles away in Lordsburg, New Mexico, the agency said.
When the bus departed the operating base about 12:20 a..m., the other migrants — including Jakelin and her father — were held inside the sally port of the Antelope Wells Port of Entry and given access to food, water, and restrooms, according to CBP.