Girl who died fled intensely poor Guatemalan village

Combined Shape

SAN ANTONIO SECORTEZ, Guatemala (AP) — Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin received her first pair of shoes several weeks ago, when her father said they would set out together for the United States, thousands of miles from this small indigenous community in Guatemala where she spent her days plodding through mud and surrounded by coconut trees.

The 7-year-old was excited about the possibility of a new life in another country, relatives said Saturday. Maybe she would get her first toy, or learn to read and write.

Instead she died in a Texas hospital two days after being taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents in a remote stretch of New Mexico desert.

The death has drawn attention to the increasingly perilous routes that Central American migrants traverse to reach the U.S., where some plan to apply for asylum, and to the way migrants are treated once in custody. Jakelin’s family says her father paid a human smuggler to sneak them across the border; asylum wasn’t the plan.

Sadness hangs in the air outside the tiny wooden house with a straw roof, dirt floors, a few bedsheets and a fire pit for cooking where Jakelin used to sleep with her parents and three siblings. The brothers are barefoot, their feet caked with mud and their clothes in tatters. A heart constructed out of wood and wrapped in plastic announces Jakelin’s death.

Trending:
CNN Fact Check Shows Biden Made Up Fake People to Support Jobs Plan

Grandfather Domingo Caal said the family got by on $5 a day earned harvesting corn and beans. But it wasn’t enough. Jakelin’s father Nery Caal decided to migrate with his favorite child to earn money he could send back home. Nery often took his daughter to fish at a nearby river. The long journey north would be an even greater adventure.

The girl leapt with joy when she was told about the trip, Domingo Caal said in Spanish.

The people of San Antonio Secortez, a lush mountain hamlet with 420 inhabitants within the municipality of Raxruha, speak the Mayan Q’eqchi’ language, though most of the men also know Spanish.

Domingo Caal translated for Claudia Maquin as she attempted to describe her daughter’s life while holding back tears. Jakelin liked to climb trees, Claudia said, but she gives few details.

“Every time they ask me what happened to the girl, it hurts me again,” Maquin said.

Members of 13 families from San Antonio Secortez have established homes in the U.S., and community members set off firecrackers to celebrate each time word arrived that one of the townsfolk had made it. The Caals said they believed that Jakelin and Nery would make it, too.

“He was desperate,” Domingo Caal said, explaining that his son borrowed money — using his plot of land as guarantee — to pay for the voyage.

Tekandi Paniagua, the Guatemalan consul in Del Rio, Texas, told The Associated Press that Nery Caal and his daughter took about a week to reach the U.S. border. Paniagua said Caal, 29, told him on Friday that they had been dropped off near the border and walked just an hour and a half to reach it.

They were detained soon afterward along with a large group of other migrants near the Antelope Wells border crossing at about 9:15 p.m. on Dec. 6 in a dry, rugged area flecked with ghost towns and abandoned buildings.

Related:
Conquering COVID: US Virus Deaths Plummet to Levels Not Seen in Nearly a Year

The consul said Caal told him the girl never lacked food or water either before or after they were detained, and said he had no complaints about how they were treated.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Friday that the girl initially appeared healthy and that an interview raised no signs of distress. Authorities said her father spoke in Spanish to border agents and signed a form indicating she was in good health.

Jakelin’s death drew immediate questions from members of Congress and others about whether more could have been done. There were only four agents working with a group of 163 migrants, including 50 unaccompanied children, and only one bus to take them to the nearest station 94 miles away. The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation.

That single bus set out on a several-hour trip to the Border Patrol station filled with unaccompanied minors — following protocol — while the daughter and her father waited for it to return. They left about eight hours after being detained.

Caal told the consul that while they were on the bus, his daughter began to feel warm and uncomfortable and began to vomit, and Caal told the driver that his daughter was ill.

Officials said agents radioed ahead to have emergency medical technicians available in Lordsburg. When they arrived, 90 minutes later, she had stopped breathing. Emergency crews revived her, and she was airlifted to an El Paso, Texas, hospital, to which the father was driven.

The girl died at about 12:30 a.m. Dec. 8, roughly 19 hours after she began throwing up on the bus and 27 hours after being apprehended. Officials said she had swelling on her brain and liver failure. An autopsy was scheduled to determine the cause of death. The results could take weeks.

Paniagua said the father, whom he described as a devout evangelical Christian, now appeared to be “more serene, more stable.”

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →






We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

Tags:
The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands.
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
Location
New York City




Conversation