December 17, 2018

Delegation looks into death of migrant child

Nearly a dozen members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are visiting the New Mexico border to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala after she was taken into custody by Border Patrol agents earlier this month.

Congressman Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., and Congresswoman-elect Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., will be part of the delegation. Joaquin Castro, chairman-elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, will lead the 11-member group, which also includes Democrats from California, Texas and Illinois.

The group will tour Antelope Wells, where Jakelin Caal Maquin and her father were taken into custody Dec. 6, along with a group of 163 migrants, after they crossed the border illegally. The delegation will retrace the journey to the Lordsburg Border Patrol station where agents had to revive Caal after she stopped breathing during an hour-and-a-half bus ride.

Torres-Small visited both Antelope Wells and Lordsburg on her own Sunday to gather information, according to a statement released by her office.

“The death of Jakelin Caal Maquin is a tragedy. The administration failed to plan for and provide the resources we need on our border to keep children and families safe, allow agents to do their jobs, and protect all of our border communities,” Torres-Small said in the statement.

“Jakelin’s death raises serious questions about how this administration is treating those who seek refuge at our borders,” Luján said in a statement. “Every human being should be treated with dignity. That’s why we’re going to Lordsburg station, and it’s why Congressional Democrats are going to keep holding this administration accountable.”

Following their border tour today, the lawmakers will “brief the press on how these stations are equipped to protect the health and safety of those seeking refuge at our borders,” according to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

But the members of Congress will not be able to talk directly to the Border Patrol agents on duty in New Mexico the night the child became deathly ill and had to be airlifted to a hospital in El Paso, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

“While DHS respects the oversight role of Congress, it is important to allow the review process (to) occur unimpeded by politics,” said DHS Spokeswoman Katie Waldman. The Office of the Inspector General is investigating the child’s death now.

“DHS has made available the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, the Deputy Chief of the Border Patrol and the El Paso Sector Chief, in addition to local leadership,” Waldman said.

Lawyers for the girl’s father, Nery Gilberto Caal Cuz, rescheduled their news conference about the child’s death for Wednesday morning in El Paso.

By:  Angela Kocherga
Source: Albuquerque Journal