A 7-Year-Old Girl Died In Border Patrol Custody From Dehydration & Shock

by Morgan Brinlee
Scott Eisen/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Dehydration and shock led to the death of a young migrant girl in Border Patrol custody earlier this month, according to a recent report from The Washington Post. The 7-year-old Guatemalan child reportedly died less than 48 hours after being apprehended by border patrol agents in a remote part of New Mexico's Chihuahuan Desert.

UPDATE: CBP and the Guatemalan Embassy confirmed Friday afternoon that the girl who died was Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, who'd traveled with her family from the Alta Verapaz region of Guatemala, according to NBC News.


"Border Patrol agents took every possible step to save the child's life under the most trying of circumstances," a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson tells Bustle in an emailed statement. "Unfortunately, despite our best efforts and the best efforts of the medical team treating the child, we were unable to stop this tragedy from occurring."

"As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child," the spokesperson goes on to say. "On behalf of the Department of Homeland Security, our sincerest condolences go out to the family of the child." Bustle has reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for additional comment.

According to DHS, the child was apprehended with her father and 161 other migrants after they presented themselves to agents at the Antelope Wells Port of Entry at approximately 9 p.m. local time on Dec. 6. DHS and CBP officials have said that the girl's father denied the child had any current illnesses and that the child showed no evidence of health issues when agents conducted a routine medical screening shortly after the migrants presented themselves to agents.

DHS also said that agents followed standard protocol in offering the child and her father food and water. However, Aura Bogado, an immigration reporter at Reveal, notes that migrants held in so-called "hieleras,” or "iceboxes," during processing aren't given food or water you'd actually want to ingest. According to Bogado, migrants are offered grey water that "routinely makes people sick" and instant ramen noodles.

According to DHS, the girl was placed on a bus with her father to be transported to the nearest border patrol station some six and a half hours after the migrant group first presented themselves to agents. It was at this time that the child's father reported her to have a fever and be vomiting. According to the DHS, agents radioed for a paramedic to meet them at the Lordsburg Border Patrol station.

When the bus arrived at the Lordsburg Border Patrol station, the child's father notified agents that the girl had stopped breathing. According to the DHS, border patrol agents immediately began administering medical care until emergency medical services arrived and took over, successfully reviving the girl twice. Records from CBP show responding EMS personnel recorded the girl's body temperature to be 105.7 degrees, The Washington Post reported.

The girl was airlifted to Providence Children's Hospital in nearby El Paso, Texas, where she reportedly went into cardiac arrest but was again revived. However, CBP reported that the girl ultimately did not recover and died at the hospital, according to the Post.

DHS says in a statement that any travel north to cross the U.S. border illegally is "extremely dangerous," citing drug cartels, human smugglers, and the elements as just some of the dangers migrants might encounter along the way.

"Every year, the Border Patrol saves hundreds of people who are overcome by the elements between our ports of entry," a DHS spokesperson tells Bustle. "Once again, we are begging parents to not put themselves or their children at risk attempting to enter illegally. Please present yourselves at a port of entry and seek to enter legally and safely."

But the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has characterized the young migrant's death as a result of the "inhumane conditions" she was likely held in. "This tragedy represents the worst possible outcome when children are held in inhumane conditions," the ACLU Border Rights Center tweeted. "We call for a rigorous investigation into how this tragedy happened and serious reforms to prevent future deaths."

DHS and CBP officials said Friday that they're investigating the girl's death to ensure that all of the appropriate policies were followed.