WASHINGTON – The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will investigate the death of a migrant girl who died after being detained at a US Border Patrol station, a senior official said Friday.
The 7-year-old Guatemalan girl, whom the Guatemalan foreign ministry identified as Jackeline Caal, died on Dec 6 in El Paso, Texas, two days after she was taken into custody by US Border Patrol near Lordsburg, New Mexico with her father as they crossed the border into the United States.
Calling the incident a “very sad example of the dangers of this journey” and accusing her family of “choosing to cross illegally,” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said while appearing on the “Fox & Friends” TV program that they will “continue to look into the situation.”
The DHS said in a statement on Friday that Caal died from dehydration and septic shock after having gone days without food and water.
The girl was from Guatemala and was travelling with a group of 163 people who approached agents to turn themselves in on December 6.
It is unknown what happened to the girl during the eight hours before she started having seizures and was flown to an El Paso hospital.
In a statement, Customs and Border Protection said the girl had not eaten or consumed water in several days.
Processing 163 immigrants in one night could have posed challenges for the agency, whose detention facilities are meant to be temporary and do not usually fit that many people.
When a Border Patrol agent arrests someone, that person gets processed at a facility but usually spends no more than 72 hours in custody before they are either transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or, if they are Mexican, quickly deported home.
Most migrants from Central American say they are fleeing violence. They turn themselves in instead of trying to circumvent authorities, many with plans to apply for asylum.