Earlier this month, a seven-year-old Guatemalan girl died while she was being held in custody by US Customs and Border agents. The Guatemalan foreign ministry has now identified the little girl as Jackeline Caal. She died from a combination of dehydration and septic shock after crossing the US border with her father; she and her father turned themselves in to Border Patrol at least eight hours before Jackeline’s death .
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Jackeline Began Having Seizures & Went Into Cardiac Arrest Hours After Being Detained at the Border
It took the U.S. government 8 days to admit a migrant girl died in custody. It still hasn't answered where she was held or if she was given food or water. https://t.co/fgbQrN695B
— Justin Miller (@justinjm1) December 14, 2018
Jackeline Caal was arrested by Customs and Border Patrol agents on December 6, along with her father, Nery Caal. They were arrested in the evening at about 10PM. The next morning, Jackeline started having seizures. Doctors who examined her said that she had a very high fever (105 degrees), and a statement from Customs and Border Patrol said that she “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days.”
She was rushed to a hospital where she went into cardiac arrest. Doctors were able to revive her briefly, but she died at the hospital less than 24 hours after being admitted.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Jackeline had been given food and water when she was arrested by Customs and Border Patrol. MSNBC has reported that Customs agents put off getting her medical treatment for an hour and a half. Apparently, Caal’s father told authorities that his daughter was vomiting at 5AM, but she wasn’t treated or seen by a doctor until 6:30.
A statement from Customs and Border Patrol said, “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.”
2. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Blamed Jackeline’s Death on Her Family
FOX & FRIENDS: What do you know about the 7-year-old girl who died in Border Patrol [email protected]: "This is just a very sad example of the dangers of this journey. This family chose to cross illegally… I cannot stress [enough] how dangerous this journey is." pic.twitter.com/bjFMdFlW3E
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 14, 2018
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen appeared on Fox and Friends on Friday morning, and was asked about the death of Jackeline Caal. Nielsen described the death as “heart wrenching” but she also blamed Jackeline’s family for choosing to make the dangerous trip across the border.
“This family chose to cross illegally,” she said. “What happened here was they were about 90 miles away from where we could process them. They were in such a large crowd that it took our Border Patrol folks a couple of times to get them all.” Nielsen added, “We gave immediate care, we’ll continue to look into this situation,” said Nielsen. “But again I cannot stress [enough] how dangerous this journey is when migrants choose to come here illegally.”
DHS also released a statement about Jaqueline’s death. The statement stressed how dangerous the border crossing can be, and said, “once again, we are begging parents not to put themselves or their children at risk attempting to enter illegally.”
3. Jackeline & Her Father Were Traveling With a Group of 163 People Who All Turned Themselves in at the Border
Jackeline and her father, Nery Caal, were part of a large group of migrants traveling from Guatemala to the US border. Time Magazine reported that the whole group, which consisted of 163 people, turned themselves in to Customs and Border Patrol when they reached a remote section of the US-Mexico border. They were all taken into custody on the evening of December 6. Normally, agents offer food and water to people when they take them into detention. It’s not clear whether that procedure was followed this time.
Early the next morning, Jackeline began vomiting and having seizures. She spiked a high fever. MSNBC has reported that she wasn’t seen by a doctor for an hour and a half after she first started vomiting, even though her father told authorities that she was sick. At around 6:0, doctors examined Jackeline and she was rushed to a hospital. She went into cardiac arrest at the hospital. Doctors did manage to revive her briefly, but she died just 24 hours after being taken to the hospital.
4. Human Rights Activists Are Asking Why Border Patrol Waited So Long to Announce Jackeline’s Death
This is absolutely horrifying. We are devastated by the loss of Jackeline Caal & we’re calling for a full investigation into this deadly incident & the way our government manages the care of vulnerable immigrant children. https://t.co/TVcota3KPn
— ADL (@ADL_National) December 14, 2018
The American Civil Liberties Union says that Customs and Border Patrol has a “culture of cruelty” which has created policies that lead to the deaths of migrants. The ACLU released a statement after Jackeline’s death, calling for a full investigation into how she died. The statement also slammed Customs and Border Patrol for failing to report her death:
“This tragedy represents the worst possible outcome when people, including children, are held in inhumane conditions. Lack of accountability, and a culture of cruelty within CBP have exacerbated policies that lead to migrant deaths. In 2017, migrant deaths increased even as the number of border crossings dramatically decreased. When the Trump administration pushes for the militarization of the border, including more border wall construction, they are driving people fleeing violence into the deadliest desert regions. The fact that it took a week for this to come to light shows the need for transparency for CBP. We call for a rigorous investigation into how this tragedy happened and serious reforms to prevent future deaths.”
5. Doctors Are Performing an Autopsy on Jackeline’s Body to Learn More About How, and Why, She Died
The latest: Guatemalan foreign ministry official identifies the 7-year-old migrant girl who died in U.S. Border Patrol custody as Jackeline Caal. https://t.co/C2FZnUpnlh
— The Associated Press (@AP) December 14, 2018
Customs and Border Patrol says that they are conducting an autopsy on Jackeline’s body. The initial reports said that Jackeline died of severe dehydration and shock; a statement from Border Patrol said that she had not eaten or drunk water for days before her death. It wasn’t clear whether border patrol agents gave her anything to eat or drink when they took her into custody. Jackeline was in custody for around eight hours before she started to vomit and have seizures.
The autopsy results could take weeks, according to Border Patrol.