A 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who crossed the southern border into New Mexico with her father on December 6 died in Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) custody last week, the Washington Post reported.
Jackeline Caal, who was part of a group of 163 people who surrendered to Border Patrol officers, experienced seizures eight hours after she and her dad were taken into custody. During a bus ride to a CBP facility in Lordsburg, the girl, who “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days,” started vomiting before the convulsions and losing consciousness. When emergency responders arrived, she had a recorded fever of 105.7 degrees.
The child was then transported to a children’s hospital in El Paso, Texas, where she was revived after going into cardiac arrest, but then died 24 hours later at the facility. Her causes of death were listed as Septic shock, fever and dehydration.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley called the death “a horrific, tragic situation,” but he also indicated that the child’s father, who has not yet been identified, rather than the Trump administration, was responsible for the loss. “Does the administration take responsibility for a parent taking a child on a trek through Mexico to get to this country? No.”
Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas disagrees, telling NPR on Thursday that the president’s immigration policies are putting people, including children like Caal, at grave risk.
“By limiting the ability of folks to present themselves at the port of entry, the Trump administration is making it more dangerous for these folks,” he said.
The CBP and the Inspector General of DHS have said they would each conduct investigations to determine whether the agency followed all correct procedures and policies.
“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,” Cynthia Pompa, an ACLU Border Rights Center advocacy manager, told the Associated Press.
In a statement, she added: “The fact that it took a week for this to come to light shows the need for transparency for CBP.”
The death follows a year of hardline immigration policy. Officials are holding nearly 15,000 immigrant children in detention facilities, while agents are increasingly apprehending families with children at the border.