Earlier this month, news broke that 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin from Guatemala died while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Now BuzzFeed News reports that another migrant girl almost died in custody just weeks earlier. Some advocates are worried that the CBP sector where they were both held may not be properly equipped to handle medical emergencies.
Details of the newly reported incident have not yet been released. But according to BuzzFeed News, which spoke to the hospital and members of Congress that were briefed by CBP, there are many similarities to Maquin's case. CBP declined to provide comment to Bustle.
Both girls entered the United States through Mexico and ended up in the El Paso sector of CBP. Both went into cardiac arrest and were rushed to hospitals. But the unnamed girl made a "full recovery," per BuzzFeed News, whereas Maquin died in the hospital. Maquin reportedly had a swollen brain and liver failure, though an autopsy has not yet revealed her cause of death.
Thousands of migrants from Central America are currently waiting at the U.S. border to legally seek asylum, according to Mexican paper El Universal. The Trump administration has massively slowed down asylum processing — a tactic called "metering" — which is incentivizing some migrants to try to cross the border illegally, per The Washington Post.
Tom Jawetz, vice president of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress, said in a statement to Bustle that crossing illegally often results in migrants being detained at remote posts that are "ill-equipped to handle people with these medical needs."
"Because of deliberate policy decisions made by this administration, medically fragile and vulnerable people, including children, are being forced to enter the country to request protection at ever more remote and dangerous locations," Jawetz says. "It is a humanitarian crisis of our own making."
BuzzFeed News reports that the area in New Mexico where both girls were detained has traditionally been one of the least common places for migrants to cross. Very few communities live in the area, and there's sporadic cell service — meaning it's hard for CBP officials to communicate in the case of emergencies. The facilities where the girls were kept lacked special rooms, tables, or equipment for them to be examined and treated, per BuzzFeed News. They also reportedly didn't have trained officials to conduct physical examinations.
Members of Congress are looking into these conditions and have been touring the facilities, including Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas), who told BuzzFeed News that the El Paso sector is unequipped to care for detainees' medical needs.
"Like all Americans, I'm devastated by the death of #JakelinCaal. I’m currently witnessing the journey she took through #AntelopeWells to #LordsburgStation—and investigating the circumstances of her death," Castro tweeted on Tuesday. "We must show the American ppl how this Admin treats migrants."
Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) told BuzzFeed News that CBP has indicated there may be "at least four" other cases of medical emergencies similar to these two girls'.