Sunday 20 October 2019

Family of girl who died at border deny she had no food or water

A picture of Jakelin, a 7-year-old girl who died in U.S. custody after crossing illegally from Mexico to the U.S, is seen during a protest to demand justice for her, in El Paso, Texas, U.S. December 16, 2018. Photo: Reuters
A picture of Jakelin, a 7-year-old girl who died in U.S. custody after crossing illegally from Mexico to the U.S, is seen during a protest to demand justice for her, in El Paso, Texas, U.S. December 16, 2018. Photo: Reuters

Alan Martin

The family of a seven-year-old Guatemalan girl who died in US Border Patrol custody are disputing US officials' claims she had not been given food or water for days.

The parents of Jakelin Caal said she had been given food and water and appeared to be in good health as she travelled through Mexico with her father, Nery Gilberto Caal Cuz (29). They added Jakelin had not been travelling through the desert for days before being taken into custody.

Jakelin and her father were seeking asylum in the US and were among a large group of migrants arrested on December 6 near a remote border crossing in New Mexico.

Hours later, they were placed on a bus to the nearest Border Patrol station, but Jakelin began vomiting and eventually stopped breathing. She later died at a Texas hospital.

Health

Border Patrol officials claimed agents did everything they could to save the girl but that she had not had food or water for days. An initial screening showed no health problems, and her father had signed a form indicating she was in good health.

But the family took issue with that form, which was in English, a language her father doesn't speak or read. He communicated with border agents in Spanish but he speaks the Mayan Q'eqchi' language.

"It is unacceptable to have persons in custody sign documents in a language that they clearly do not understand," the statement said.

Jakelin's family are urging authorities to conduct an "objective and thorough" investigation into the death and to determine whether officials met standards for the arrest and custody of children.

A cause of death has not yet been released.

Irish Independent

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