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Family of Migrant Girl: She Didn't Die That Way

Border Patrol officials say they tried to save her
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 15, 2018 6:00 PM CST
In this June 24, 2015, file photo, a Border Patrol agent looks for other agents in the Animas mountains in New Mexico's boot heel.   (Roberto E. Rosales/The Albuquerque Journal via AP, File)
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(Newser) – The family of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died in US Border Patrol custody is disputing an account from US officials who said she had not been given food or water for days, the AP reports. In a statement released by lawyers, the parents of Jakelin Caal say the girl had been given food and water and appeared to be in good health as she traveled through Mexico with her father, 29-year-old Nery Gilberto Caal Cuz. Jakelin and her father were seeking asylum in the US and were among a large group of migrants arrested Dec. 6 near a remote border crossing in New Mexico. Hours later they were placed on a bus to the nearest Border Patrol station, but Jakelin began vomiting and eventually stopped breathing. She later died at a Texas hospital.

Border Patrol officials on Friday said agents did everything they could to save the girl but she had not had food or water for days. They added that an initial screening showed no evidence of health problems, and that her father had signed a form indicating she was in good health. But the family took issue with that form, which was in English, a language her father doesn't speak or read. He communicated with border agents in Spanish but he primarily speaks the Mayan Q'eqchi' language. Jakelin's family is urging authorities to conduct an "objective and thorough" investigation into the death and to determine whether officials met standards for the arrest and custody of children. A cause of death has not yet been released. (Another girl taken at the border was said to be sexually abused.)


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