Hours after she was taken into custody by US border patrol agents last week, a 7-year old migrant girl from Guatemala running a body temperature 105.7 degrees hours died of dehydration and starvation, drawing attention once again to the Trump administration’s policies that are killing children from the Mexican border to Syria and Yemen.
In a heartbreaking incident, the girl, later identified as Jackeline Caal by Guatemalan officials, is said to have crossed into the United States with her father and a large group of 163 migrants along a remote span of New Mexico desert.
The group surrendered to border agents and sought asylum at around 10pm on December 6.
More than eight hours later, the girl reportedly began having seizures at 6:25am and emergency responders flew her out to a children’s hospital in El Paso, where she had a cardiac arrest.
Although she was revived, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency said she did not recover and died at the hospital less than 24 hours after being transported.
An initial diagnosis by physicians at Providence hospital listed the cause of death as septic shock, fever and dehydration, CBP disclosed, even as a full autopsy report is awaited.
The CBP said the girl “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days,” but it was not immediately clear why she was not hydrated at least in the hours she was in CBP custody.
“Border Patrol agents took every possible step to save the child’s life under the most trying of circumstances,” a CBP spokesman told the Washington Post, which first reported the story.
“As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child.”
But there is little empathy from the President and his minions, who blame parents for putting children in harm’s way knowing the dangers involved in the trek to the US border, without considering the circumstances that compel them to risk such a perilous journey.
Some officials have gone so far as to suggest children are being used as cover for illegal entry and activity, and at other times, they have suggested migrant teenagers themselves constitute a danger to the United States.
CBP officials say their Border Patrol stations were built decades ago to handle mostly male single adults in custody and are “incompatible” with the new reality of parents with children coming en masse across the border to surrender to agents and request asylum.
The girl's death comes months after another Guatemalan toddler died six weeks after being released from an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement facility in Dilley, Texas.
The toddler's mother and her attorneys alleged she contracted a respiratory infection after they arrived to the detention center and US authorities provided substandard medical care for her.
Trump and his hardline Republican minions have repeatedly attacked parents for putting children in harm’s way even as they seek upwards of $ 25 billion in funding for building a border wall that most Americans say will not solve the problem of illegal border crossing.
Total US aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, three countries that most migrants stream out to the US through Mexico, is less than $ 1 billion.
The latest tragedy has attracted the attention of civil liberties groups already seething over the Trump administration’s whittling down of refugees and asylum requests.
“This tragedy represents the worst possible outcome when people, including children, are held in inhumane conditions.
Lack of accountability, and a culture of cruelty within CBP have exacerbated policies that lead to migrant deaths,” said Cynthia Pompa, advocacy manager for the ACLU Border Rights Center, who claimed migrant deaths increased last year even as the number of border crossings dropped.
US lawmakers from Texas, including Congressman Julian Castro and Beto O’Rourke, both of who are eyeing a White House run, also called for an inquiry in the incident.