Three months after 7-year-old Guatemalan migrant Jakelin Caal Maquin died in U.S. custody, an autopsy report has determined the cause of death as a fatal streptococcus bacterial infection in her bloodstream that caused multiple organ failure. Streptococcus sepsis is a dangerous condition, but can be treated if caught early.
Jakelin died in an El Paso, Texas hospital on Dec. 8 after she and her father were apprehended by U.S. authorities two days earlier for crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in New Mexico without documents. Her father was seeking an asylum interview.
The same day the autopsy report was issued on Friday, President Donald Trump repeated a lie to reporters about Jakelin’s father, which he previously had told shortly after Jakelin’s death.
According to the Associated Press, Trump told reporters: “I think that it’s been very well stated that we’ve done a fantastic job. ... The father gave the child no water for a long period of time - he actually admitted blame.”
It was the same thing he had said in December.
Jakelin’s father repeatedly has called this claim untrue, saying that Customs and Border Protection failed to provide water for eight hours from the time they were detained on the night of Dec. 6, along with over 100 other migrants, to the next morning, when they were placed on a bus and driven to a Border Patrol station at Lordsburg, New Mexico.
As the AP noted: “When the bus arrived close to 6:30 a.m., the father said Jakelin was not breathing. A Border Patrol emergency technician revived her twice. She had a temperature of 105.7 degrees. At 7:45 a.m., a helicopter flew her to the nearest trauma center, in El Paso, Texas, where she went into cardiac arrest late that morning and was revived once more.” She died shortly after.
Following the autopsy report, issued by El Paso’s medical examiner, lawyers for Jakelin’s family said, “While the report sheds some light on Jakelin’s cause of death, it still leaves many questions that require further review,” The Washington Post and other news outlets reported. “The report’s findings suggest Jakelin’s chances of surviving would have been improved with earlier medical intervention. As we requested back in December of last year, the family seeks a thorough independent investigation of this matter to learn why medical intervention was delayed.”
CBP referred reporters to an old statement it issued in December. “Border Patrol agents save thousands of people every year who are overcome by the elements, including people found suffering from dehydration, heat stroke, hypothermia, drowning in the river, injuries, and left for dead by these smugglers in some of the most remote areas of our border as they enter the country illegally. Our Agents have world-class rescue and medical training, and are committed to saving those put in distress by callous smugglers,” CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said at the time.
The CBP says it wasn’t aware Jakelin was sick until she already was on the bus. Her family, however, says CBP failed to contact medical personnel when she appeared ill before getting on the bus, BuzzFeed reported.
CBP eventually ordered medical checks on all children in its custody after a second child died in December. Eight-year-old Felipe Gómez-Alonzo, also from Guatemala, died on Christmas Eve in New Mexico after experiencing a high fever, nausea, and vomiting.
Trump blamed both deaths on “Democrats,” and Jakelin’s death specifically on her father.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen took a similar tack in December, blaming Jakelin’s father and her family because they “chose to cross illegally.” Later, in testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, Nielsen used the deaths to rant about “drugs, criminals, and violence spilling into our country every week” and “smugglers and traffickers who profit from human misery every single day.”
“This chain of human misery is no more evident than with the tragic death of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin,” she added.
Whatever the investigation into Jakelin’s death determines, Trump’s latest comments are disgraceful, although not surprising.
At a Michigan rally Thursday night, Trump mocked asylum-seekers. “You have people coming, you know they’re all met by the lawyers…And they come out, and they’re met by the lawyers, and they say, ‘Say the following phrase: I am very afraid for my life. I am afraid for my life,’” he said. “Then I look at the guy. He looks like he just got out of the ring. He’s a heavyweight champion of the world. It’s a big fat con job.”