The Family Of The 7-Year-Old Girl in Border Control Custody Who Died of Dehydration & Exhaustion Speaks Out

The relatives of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, who died from dehydration and exhaustion in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, released a public statement disputing parts of the media reports that she had gone days without food or water while traveling from Guatemala to the U.S. border, according to Reuters

Ruben Garcia of the Annunciation House read the family’s statement to the press on Saturday. The Annunciate House is where the young girl’s father is currently staying at. “There is much that is being reported that we have problems with,” Garcia said in the press conference. “This statement is a first step in trying to respond to some of the concerns that we have.” 

The family first clarified that her official cause of death has not been announced, according to Reuters. The CBP told The Washington Post on Friday that she had died of “dehydration and shock.” Garcia said that an autopsy is currently being conducted. The result reportedly won’t be released for a couple of weeks. 

The CBP originally told The Washington Post that she had “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days. According to her father, these assertions aren’t true. “Jakelin’s father took care of Jakelin, made sure she was fed and had sufficient water,” Garcia said in the family’s statement. “She and her father sought asylum from Border Patrol as soon as they crossed the border. She had not suffered from a lack of water or food prior to approaching the border.” 

As of right now, Maquin’s family doesn’t blame the CBP for her death. But they are asking for  “an objective and thorough investigation” into the incident by utilizing “nationally-recognized standards for the arrest and custody of children.” Her family does fault the CBP for “relying on forms” that are in English, when Maquin’s father speaks primarily Q’eqchi’, according to Reuters.  

“The family of Jakelin Caal Maquin is still coping with their profound loss,” Garcia said in the family’s statement. “Jakeline, just five days past her seventh birthday, was a beautiful and loving child.”

Maquin and her father crossed the border for asylum on December 6, and she didn’t look ill at the time, according to CBP and the family per Reuters. CNN reports that the two waited in the detention for seven hours before a bus took them to a different custody station. The young girl reportedly was throwing up just before the bus left. When the vehicle arrived at the next station, Maquin was no longer breathing. Reuters reports that emergency responders helped her on scene and brought her to a hospital in El Paso. She died on December 8 from cardiac arrest, liver failure, and brain damage, according to CNN.

“Jakelin and her father came to the United States seeking something that thousands have been seeking for years: an escape from the dangerous situation in their home country,” Garcia said on behalf of the family. “This was their right under U.S. and international law.”