A 7-Year-Old Girl In Border Control Custody Died Of Dehydration & Exhaustion

A seven-year-old girl from Guatemala has died of dehydration and shock after being taken into Border Patrol custody last week, The Washington Post reports.

According to The Post, U.S. Customs and Border Protection records show the girl, identified as Jackeline Caal, and her father were taken into custody around 10 p.m. on Dec. 6, just south of Lordsburg, New Mexico. Around 6:25 a.m., Caal reportedly began having seizures. Emergency responders registered her body temperature at over 105 degrees, and a CBP statement said she “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days.”

Caal went into cardiac arrest during a helicopter flight to an El Paso hospital. She was revived, but did not fully recover, and died at the hospital less than a day later.

In a statement released on Friday, Cynthia Pompa, advocacy manager for the ACLU Border Rights Center, slammed CBP for being “inhumane,” and called for a “rigorous investigation” into Caal’s death.

“This tragedy represents the worst possible outcome when people, including children, are held in inhumane conditions,” she said. “Lack of accountability, and a culture of cruelty within CBP have exacerbated policies that lead to migrant deaths.”

This past February, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a statement decrying the fact that “Unaccompanied alien children and family units are flooding the border because of catch and release loopholes.”

There are a couple things about this headline that don’t sit quite right.

First, there’s the continued use of the term “alien” to describe people who enter the U.S. illegally. While not in this case, the term is often preceded by the word “illegal.”

The Border Crossing Law Firm’s website sums up the issue with this phrase quite nicely, saying it “implies that a person’s existence is criminal.” Contrast this with the typical criminality of acts that people commit. Only the first implies inherent illegality, just by way of being alive.

Another thing about the DHS statement that struck me as odd is the use of the phrase “catch and release,” usually heard in the context of fishing. This, along with the use of the intense verb “flooding,” is intended to dehumanize and criminalize these immigrants.

Caal’s death comes a few months after 18-month-old Mariee Juárez contracted an illness while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, before dying a few weeks after being released. Less than a month ago, Border Patrol agents fired tear gas at immigrants attempting to cross the border.

If something doesn’t change soon, more people will die for trying to have a better life for themselves and their families. If a child dying in CBP custody isn’t enough to convince people that something is wrong, then I’m at a loss.

Like a HuffPost News article from last June said, “I don’t know how to explain to you that you should care about other people.”