Jakelin Caal Maquin's Autopsy Reveals More About Her Death In Border Patrol Custody
An autopsy report has revealed that 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, who died in Border Patrol custody last year, had a bacterial infection that ultimately led to her death. A report from the El Paso County Office of the Medical Examiner revealed streptococcus bacteria had been found in the young Guatemalan child's lungs, liver, spleen, and adrenal gland, according to PBS News. Jakelin died Dec. 8 at Providence Children's Hospital in El Paso, just two days after being taken into Border Patrol custody.
According to NBC News, an autopsy report from El Paso county's chief medical examiner, Mario A. Rascon, concluded that the girl had died from "a rapidly progressive infection, with prompt systemic bacterial spread and substantial clinical deterioration." Rascon's report went on to say that the infection had resulted in "multiple organ dysfunction and death," the news outlet reported.
As Bustle previously reported, Jakelin died roughly 48 hours after she and her father had presented themselves — along with 161 other migrants — on Dec. 6 to border patrol agents at the Antelope Wells Port of Entry in a remote part of New Mexico's Chihuahuan Desert. Officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claimed at that time that the child didn't show any signs of health issues when CBP agents conducted a routine medical screening and that the girl's father had signed a form indicating his daughter had no current illnesses.
But physicians who reviewed the medical examiner's autopsy report told both the Associated Press and The New York Times that bacterial infections take hours to progress, meaning Jakelin would likely have shown visible signs of illness for some time before her death.
"It's a death that could have been preventable," Dr. Colleen Kraft, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics told the Associated Press. "She should have been taken to the hospital right away."
According to Kraft, streptococcus bacteria would likely have caused Jakelin to show initial symptoms of infection such as elevated heartbeat or respiratory rate or blood circulation issues. "You had somebody who didn't know to look for those subtle signs that her little system was shutting down," Kraft told the Associated Press.
Lawyers representing Jakelin's family have also questioned if more immediate medical attention would have saved the child's life. "The report's findings suggest that Jakelin's chances of surviving would have been improved with earlier medical intervention," The New York Times reported the family's attorney said in a statement, adding that while the autopsy report "sheds some light on Jakelin's cause of death, it still leaves many questions that require further review."
DHS officials previously told Bustle that Jakelin's father reported the girl had a fever and was vomiting when they were both placed on a bus to be transported to the nearest border patrol station some six and a half hours after presenting themselves to agents. According to the DHS, agents radioed for a paramedic to meet them at the Lordsburg Border Patrol station, roughly an hour and a half away. When the bus arrived at the station, the child's father notified agents that the girl had stopped breathing. Border patrol agents immediately began administering medical care until emergency medical services arrived and took over, successfully reviving the girl twice before she was transported to Providence Children's Hospital in El Paso.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan has said CBP agents "did everything in their power to provide emergency medical assistance for Jakelin Caal Maquin immediately after her father notified the agents of her distress."
An 8-year-old migrant boy, identified as Felipe Gómez Alonzo, died in CBP custody a few weeks after Jakelin, spurring CBP to re-evaluate policies regarding the health care and evaluation of migrants, The New York Times has reported.