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
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