An Investigation on the Deaths of Two Migrant Children

Alejandra Granados, Staff Writer

On December 8, seven year old Jakelin Caal Maquin from Guatemala tragically died in custody of US Customs and Border Protection. Two weeks later on Christmas day, Felipe Gomez Alonzo an 8-year-old child from Guatemala, also died in US custody after a long journey attempting to enter into the United States. The news sparked outrage and prompted discussion about the treatment of migrants in detention facilities lining the Southern border.

Jakelin Caal Maquin and her father traveled over 3,000 km to the US in hopes of creating a better life by escaping poverty in Guatemala. Two days before her death, they were stopped by border patrol agents along with 163 other immigrants in a New Mexican desert. Initially, an agent performed a screening where Jakelin showed no signs of illness and her father also reported no symptoms at the time. After being apprehended, the group was divided and transported to a larger station in Lordsburg, New Mexico on busses. On December 7, Jakelin and her father were preparing to board the bus when she fell ill and began to vomit. By the time they arrived in Lordsburg, she was not breathing, experiencing seizures, and had to be revived twice. Jakelin was taken to a hospital in El Paso, Texas. Her condition indicated sepsis shock, an infection that causes organ failure and low blood pressure, but a CT scan also showed swelling in her brain. The official cause of death was dehydration and exhaustion, but the family is seeking further investigation as Jakelin’s father made sure that she had enough food and water along the journey.

Several days later, it was revealed that another child, Felipe Gomez Alonzo, died under US custody on December 25. Seven days earlier, 8 year-old Felipe and his father were detained by border agents in El Paso, Texas. They were transported to various detention facilities and the child received numerous welfare checks to examine his overall well being. On December 24, an agent reported that Felipe had a cough and that his eyes had developed a gloss. The child and his father were sent to a medical center in Alamogordo, New Mexico where he was diagnosed with a cold, given antibiotics, and released. Later that day, Felipe began to vomit and was taken to the same hospital where he died. An autopsy revealed that he had actually come down with the flu not a cold, but the official cause of death hasn’t been determined.

The Customs and Border Protection Agency has undergone widespread criticism from citizens and high-profile politicians for their treatment of migrants. At least 12 other people died in US custody in 2018, including a 19-month-old girl from Guatemala. It was also reported that a 5-month-old girl who travelled with her mother and the migrant caravan was hospitalized for pneumonia after spending days in a freezing cell managed by border officials. In response, the agency stated that they would review their policies on the care of children 10 years and younger. The agency was also attacked in June after it was revealed that they were separating children from their parents and even placing them in cages.  However, some people, including President Donald Trump, are blaming the children’s parents for the deaths rather than the agency itself. He tweeted on December 29 that the “father of the young girl said it was not their fault, he hadn’t given her water in days”. However, Jakelin’s father never said that and actually claims that she had enough food and water throughout the journey. President Trump also said that the “children in question were very sick before they were given over to Border Patrol”, which is false according to the account of events presented by the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection Agency. President Trump even went as far as to blame Democrats and their immigration policies for the deaths because they promote the idea that people can cross into the United States illegally. As the investigation continues and people continue to wait for answers, the tragic deaths of the children in the hands of our government has prompted people to fight for change and has even made the debate about border security and the handling of migrants even more hotly contested.