Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Activists, including childcare providers, parents and their children, protested against the Trump administration's immigration policy at the New York offices of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

'Indefensible': 7-Year-Old Child's 'Horrific' Death in DHS Custody Prompts Outrage

"If this isn't the America we want to be, now is the time to be loud about it."

Julia Conley

The ACLU blamed a "lack of accountability and a culture of cruelty" at the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agency (CPB) for the death of a seven-year-old girl who was in immigration custody last week, calling for an in-depth investigation into the child's fate.

After crossing the U.S.-Mexico border with her father and 163 other asylum seekers, the child, whose full name was Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, was taken into CBP custody in New Mexico on December 6. She began having seizures hours later, and was taken to a hospital after she was found to have a 105.7 degree temperature. She died 24 hours later at the hospital of dehydration and shock, according to the Washington Post. The Post reported that it wasn't clear if Jakelin had been given food and water after being taken into custody.

The ACLU called the child's death "indefensible" and urged Americans to stand firmly against the Trump administration's inhumane immigration policy, which has included the separation of thousands of children from their parents and guardians as well as prolonged detentions for families.

As the news of Jakelin's death was reported, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provoked shock and outrage as it released a statement essentially making an example of the seven-year-old, noting that her fate should serve as a reminder that crossing the U.S. border is dangerous for refugees and suggesting that her father is to blame for her death.

"This is a disgusting statement dripping with cruelty, contempt, and inhumanity," MSNBC journalist Chris Hayes said. "Everyone who worked on it should be ashamed of themselves."

On Twitter, Reveal reporter Aura Bogado, who has extensively covered the effects of the U.S. government's immigration policies on children and families, criticized much of the corporate media's coverage of Jakelin's death and shared the conditions asylum seekers face in DHS custody:

"This young girl's death could very well have been prevented if the DHS implemented search and rescue activities along the border zone with the involvement of medical professionals," said Kathryn Hampton, a program officer for Physicians for Human Rights. "Decisions about the medical treatment needed for migrants and asylum seekers who are rescued in the desert should be made by a health professional with medical training, not by a law enforcement agent whose expertise and primary mission is focused on apprehension and arrest.

"Her death must serve as a reminder to the U.S. administration and to all those who serve within immigration and border enforcement agencies that the United States constitution states that no individual may be deprived of the right to life without due process of law. All U.S. policies and practices should aim to ensure protection of life, regardless of migratory status. At each of its borders, the U.S. government must uphold mandatory obligations to relieve imminent danger to lives and safety as a first priority."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

GOP Silence on Trump's Call to Axe Constitution Reveals 'Full Embrace of Fascism': House Dem

"Last week the leader of the Republican Party had dinner with a Nazi leader and a man who called Adolf Hitler 'great,'" said Rep. Bill Pascrell. "Yesterday Trump called for throwing out the Constitution and making himself dictator."

Kenny Stancil ·


Protesting Fuel Poverty, People Tell UK Government to 'Keep Everyone Warm This Winter'

As energy bills—and fossil fuel profits—continue to soar, demonstrators around Britain demanded immediate action from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and members of Parliament.

Kenny Stancil ·


'Turn Off the Tap on Plastic,' UN Chief Declares Amid Debate Over New Global Treaty

"Plastics are fossil fuels in another form," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, "and pose a serious threat to human rights, the climate, and biodiversity."

Kenny Stancil ·


EPA Urged to 'Finish the Job' After Latest Move to Protect Bristol Bay From Pebble Mine

"Local residents, scientists, and the broader public all agree that this is quite simply a bad place for a mine, and it is past time for the EPA to take Pebble off the table permanently," said one activist in Alaska.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Zero Tolerance for Corruption': Grijalva, Porter Demand Answers on Alleged Trump Pardon Bribery Scheme

The Democrats believe a real estate developer donated to a Trump-aligned super PAC in exchange for the pardons of two other men.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo