December 19, 2018

N.M. Delegation Demands Oversight Hearings On Death Of 7-Year-Old Migrant Child

Lawmakers: “This tragedy, and the circumstances that led to it, show the urgent need for effective Congressional oversight over DHS and CBP leadership”

Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham urged the incoming Senate and House Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees to convene oversight hearings on the death of Jakelin Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala who died on December 8, 2018, after being taken into custody with her father by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Lordsburg, New Mexico. 

The lawmakers’ letter follows significant questions that have been raised about the leadership at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and CBP’s ability to adequately allocate resources, appropriately respond to the humanitarian crisis happening at our southern borders and the agency’s ability to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future.

“We believe the United States must treat migrants – many of whom are fleeing terror and violence in their home nations – with humanity and dignity. We remain deeply concerned about the administration’s policies and practices that may be causing asylum seekers to attempt a dangerous journey of crossing between the ports of entry,” wrote the lawmakers.

“The timeline, actions, and factors that led to this girl’s tragic death are still not fully known, but the information that has become public so far is alarming and demands further investigation,” the lawmakers continued. “This tragedy, and the circumstances that led to it, show the urgent need for effective Congressional oversight over DHS and CBP leadership.”

The lawmakers recently sent a letter to the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection requesting an immediate investigation into the tragic death of Jakelin Caal Maquin.

The full letter is available here and below.

Dear Colleagues:

As you prepare for the 116th Congress, we respectfully request that you promptly schedule hearings in your respective committees on the death of Jakelin Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala who died on December 8, 2018, after being taken into custody with her father by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Lordsburg, NM.

We believe the United States must treat migrants – many of whom are fleeing terror and violence in their home nations – with humanity and dignity. We remain deeply concerned about the administration’s policies and practices that may be causing asylum seekers to attempt a dangerous journey of crossing between the ports of entry. As you know, the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) published a report concluding the practice of turning away asylum seekers at international bridges and “limiting the volume of asylum-seekers entering at ports of entry” may be causing the increase in unauthorized crossing attempts between ports of entry.

Additionally, we are concerned that it took more than a week for reports of the child’s death to become public. Congress requires CPB to report the death of any individual in CBP custody within 24 hours including relevant details regarding the circumstances of the fatality. The timeline, actions, and factors that led to this girl’s tragic death are still not fully known, but the information that has become public so far is alarming and demands further investigation.

Jakelin’s death raises significant questions about the leadership at Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and CBP’s ability to adequately allocate resources, appropriately respond to the humanitarian crisis happening at our southern borders and the agency’s ability to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future. This tragedy, and the circumstances that led to it, show the urgent need for effective Congressional oversight over DHS and CBP leadership.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

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Press Contact

Vanessa Valdivia (Heinrich) 202.228.1578 / Ned Adriance (Udall) 202.228.6870 / Lauren Dart (Luján) 202.225.6190 / Jessie Damazyn (Lujan Grisham) 202.744.1721