05:32 GMT +315 November 2019
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    ‘Culture of Cruelty’ Caused Death of 7-Year-Old Girl in US Border Patrol Custody

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    On Thursday, US Customs and Border Protection announced that Jakelin Ameí Rosmery Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala, had died only 48 hours after being taken into the agency’s custody last week. Her family was detained while entering the country from Mexico.

    The Trump administration has denied responsibility for her death.

    Maquin died of dehydration and shock only hours after her family was detained, the Washington Post reported Thursday. According to CBP records, her family was detained at about 10 p.m. on December 6 near Lordsburg, New Mexico, along with 163 other people who turned themselves in to US border authorities.

    At 6:25 the next morning, Maquin began having seizures, and EMTs recorded her body temperature at 105.7 degrees Fahrenheit. She "reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days," according to the agency's report. The Post noted that food and water are typically provided to migrants in CBP custody.

    She was flown to Providence Children's Hospital in El Paso, but "did not recover and died at the hospital less than 24 hours after being transported," the report said.

    While her name was not released by CBP, MSNBC confirmed her identity and announced it on Friday.

    ​It's notable also that Customs and Border Patrol has been filmed seeking out and destroying water jugs left in the desert near known crossing locations for migrants to rehydrate. In January, nonprofit group No More Deaths published a report that included a compilation of video footage of CBP agents destroying these watering stations.

    However, the Trump administration remains intransigent, refusing to acknowledge responsibility for Maquin's death in their custody.

    CBP insists that it did nothing wrong, with spokesperson Andrew Meehan telling the Post Thursday that "Border Patrol agents took every possible step to save the child's life under the most trying of circumstances." Apparently those steps failed.

    Likewise, White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley told reporters outside the White House Friday, "Does the administration take responsibility for a parent taking a child on a trek through Mexico to get to this country? No."

    Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, echoed the comments of fellow administration officials, calling the girl's death "heart-wrenching" and saying her "heart goes out to the family" during comments on Fox News' "Fox & Friends" Friday, but doubled back to put the blame on her family and not on officials in the CBP, which is overseen by DHS.

    "This family chose to cross illegally," she said. "They were about 90 miles away from where we could process them. It took a such a large crowd, it took our Border Patrol folks a couple times to get them all."

    "We cannot stress how dangerous the journey is when migrants come illegally," Nielsen said.

    Further, one of US President Donald Trump's senior policy advisers, Stephen Miller, tried to use Maquin's death to further the agenda of Trump's border wall, the fight over the funding of which has threatened to shut down the federal government later this month.

    "Immigration is an emotional issue, and it ought to be an emotional issue because it affects people's lives," Miller told Fox News' Laura Ingraham on Thursday. "And if you want to stop the horrors on the northward trek, the rape that occurs and abuse that occurs… the physical assault and the death that occurs, then, for the love of God, fund the border wall."

    "This tragedy represents the worst possible outcome when people, including children, are held in inhumane conditions," Cynthia Pompa, advocacy manager for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Border Rights Center, said in a Thursday statement. "Lack of accountability and a culture of cruelty within CBP have exacerbated policies that lead to migrant deaths. In 2017, migrant deaths increased even as the number of border crossings dramatically decreased."

    "When the Trump administration pushes for the militarization of the border, including more border wall construction, they are driving people fleeing violence into the deadliest desert regions. The fact that it took a week for this to come to light shows the need for transparency for CBP. We call for a rigorous investigation into how this tragedy happened and serious reforms to prevent future deaths," Pompa continued.

    Radio Sputnik's Loud and Clear spoke with Juan Jose Gutierrez, the executive director of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition.

    ​"The first thing that needs to be said is that this is, without a doubt, a tragedy that should have never happened. But this tragedy is the direct result of a culture of cruelty on the part of immigrations authorities directed against all undocumented workers, but it is especially exacerbated over the last three years by the racist, anti-immigrant policies under the Donald Trump administration coming out of the White House. These sorts of strategies are not unique," Gutierrez said, noting it took immigration authorities a full week to acknowledge the child's death.

    "We need to hold the Donald Trump administration accountable as well as the immigration authorities," Gutierrez told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker.

    Indeed, the girl isn't the only high-risk person to die in the custody of US immigration officials this year as a result of actions by officials. Last month, it was revealed that an independent autopsy of Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez, a Honduran trans woman who entered the country as part of a migrant caravan, showed that she died of severe dehydration and wounds received from beatings during her 16-day detention by Immigration Customs and Enforcement, or ICE, the New York Times reported.

    Also in May, a toddler detained in Texas died after being released from an ICE family detention facility in Texas.

    The ACLU reported in June that eight of the 15 deaths in ICE custody in the 16-month period from December 2015 through April 2017 happened due to poor medical treatment. Twelve people died in immigration detention in 2017 alone, and since March 2010, 74 have died in their custody.

    "ICE has proven unable or unwilling to provide adequately for the health and safety of the people it detains," said Clara Long, a senior US researcher at Human Rights Watch, as quoted by the group. "The Trump administration's efforts to drastically expand the already-bloated immigration detention system will only put more people at risk."

    "It must be said that this is, without a doubt a flagrant human rights violation, [a violation] of US immigration law and of course of international law as well," Gutierrez told Sputnik. "The United States, a country of immigrants, a country that prides itself on building the most powerful economy of the world, on the labor of immigrants from all over the world, has no moral or legal justification for having children crossing with their parents from Mexico into the United States, in dangerous areas, as a direct result of the immigration policies that are being pursued by the Donald Trump administration."

    Gutierrez said the the Trump administration is "indirectly responsible for this death," noting that "even though they're not the ones directly involved," they are responsible for the policies Border Patrol enforces along the US-Mexico border that create a "culture of cruelty against undocumented immigrants, including children" who pass through dangerous terrain to enter the country.

    "This is appalling, it's un-American, it's racist, and they need to be held accountable," he said.

    "Border Patrol agents offer, as another excuse for why this tragedy happened, the fact detention centers that they operate were built basically to hold adult, unaccompanied males… so they are basically requesting that Congress provide them with additional funds so that they can have better facilities where they can hold parents and children together under the new policies that are in place right now. So their solution is to continue these cruel immigration enforcement policies instead of thinking about this as a human crisis that needs a different type of approach than what we've been seeing up until now."

    CBP apprehended a record 25,172 "family unit members" on the US-Mexico border in November, according to DHS data, accounting for 58 percent of those taken into custody that month.

    "And so that's part of the tragedy that's going to continue to inform us not just about the death of this child but about the generalized violation of human rights for the many immigrants that are escaping poverty, crime, lack of opportunity, jobs and so on, and coming to America."

    The US, Gutierrez noted, is "directly responsible for the economic conditions and the crime that's rampant within their nations that's forcing them to come up north."

    The activist noted that the US already employs 20,000 immigration officers who "embrace this culture of cruelty" because of the agency's lack of standards, qualifications and training for this rapidly expanding police force.

    In February 2017, the US government settled with the family of Anastacio Hernandez to the tune of $1 million for his 2010 death at the Tijuana-San Diego border. Over a dozen agents were filmed brutally beating Hernandez. The Justice Department had announced in November of 2015 that it would not pursue federal criminal or civil rights charges against the agents involved in Hernandez's death, the San Diego Tribune reported at the time.

    "The results are there, glaring," Gutierrez said. "In a situation where tragedies, rampant abuse, is happening daily. This is just one instance where we are being informed that this 7-year-old Guatemalan girl unnecessarily and cruelly lost her life, but I can tell you… there is a culture of generalized abuse that includes sexual abuse, beatings, mental abuse, you name it, and this is something that has been going on for many, many years."

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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