IN­NO­CENCE SUF­FERS

THE DEATH OF A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD GIRL WHILE IN THE HANDS OF THE US BOR­DER CON­TROL HAS SPARKED OU­TRAGE WHILE IN OTHER COUN­TRIES MI­GRANT CHIL­DREN ARE TREATED LIT­TLE BET­TER

The Gulf Today - Panorama - - COVER STORY - Michael Jansen

Seven-year old Jake­lin Caal Maquin, the Gu­atemalan child who died while in the cus­tody of the US bor­der pa­trol, has be­come a mar­tyr to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­icy of re­ject­ing mi­grants claim­ing asy­lum from vi­o­lence and poverty. Jake­lin died of de­hy­dra­tion, liver fail­ure and shock af­ter be­ing de­tained with 162 oth­ers at 21.15 on Dec.6 in a re­mote area in the state of New Mex­ico.

The girl’s fa­ther, Nery Gil­breto Caal Cruz, 29, told bor­der agents that she was vom­it­ing be­fore board­ing a bus at 05.00 on Dec.7. At 06.30, when the bus ar­rived at its des­ti­na­tion Jake­lin was not breath­ing and she had a high fever. Med­i­cal tech­ni­cians be­gan pro­vid­ing care at 06.40, agents claimed, and she was air­lifted to a hospi­tal at 07.45 where she died at 12.35 on Dec.8.

US of­fi­cials said she had not had eaten or had suf­fi­cient wa­ter for sev­eral days be­fore her ar­rival but her fa­ther de­nied this claim. Both bor­der agents and her fa­ther said she drank wa­ter and ate food pro­vided once they had sur­ren­dered to of­fi­cers. He is stay­ing with an or­gan­i­sa­tion that looks af­ter mi­grants.

Jack­e­lin’s fam­ily is call­ing for an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion into what hap­pened.

Ac­tivists con­tend the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s crack-down on well-trav­elled routes has led to in­creas­ing fa­tal­i­ties among mi­grants who have been forced to adopt more ar­du­ous ways of reach­ing the bor­der. The ad­min­is­tra­tion blamed the fa­ther for tak­ing his child on the long jour­ney to the US from a small vil­lage in Gu­atemala.

Jake­lin’s death has had a far wider im­pact in the US than all the pain bor­der of­fi­cers and Home­land Se­cu­rity agents have in­flicted on the thou­sands of other chil­dren who have been ap­pre­hended, de­tained, and sep­a­rated from mi­grant par­ents seek­ing sanc­tu­ary in that coun­try. Al­though pho­tos of Jake­lin in death have not been cir­cu­lated her case can be com­pared to the drown­ing death on a Turk­ish beach of three-year old Alan Kurdi dur­ing Septem­ber 2015 while his Syr­ian Kur­dish fam­ily was try­ing to reach Europe in one of the over­crowded in­flat­able boats used by smug­glers to trans­port refugees to Greek is­lands. The boy, his mother and a brother died af­ter the boat cap­sized.

Jake­lin’s home is an im­pov­er­ished Gu­atemalan vil­lage where her fa­ther’s small hold­ing could not sup­port his fam­ily. Alan Kurdi’s fam­ily was from the town of Ain al-arab/kobani which his fam­ily fled while it was un­der siege by Daesh. They ap­plied to im­mi­grate to Canada to join the sis­ter of Alan’s mother but were re­jected be­cause their doc­u­ments were in­com­plete. The photo of the dead boy in blue shorts and red t-shirt hunched on the Turk­ish beach at wa­ter’s edge raised con­cern over the fate of Syr­i­ans seek­ing refuge in Europe and soft­ened the hearts of politi­cians who had re­jected their en­try.

Pho­tos and sto­ries of starv­ing chil­dren in Yemen have also be­come sym­bols of suf­fer­ing in that coun­try and have driven hu­man­i­tar­ian agen­cies and some gov­ern­ments — but not the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion — to press for an

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