Guatemalan Girl Who Died in U.S. Custody Fled Extreme Poverty for New Life: Report

A 7-year-old girl who died in Border Patrol custody had fled extreme poverty in the Ecuadorian village where she grew up, the Associated Press reports. Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, who reportedly died 27 hours after being picked up by immigration enforcement, left the village of San Antonio Secortez with her father—leaving behind her mother, grandfather, and three siblings. According to the AP, none of Caal's siblings had shoes and their clothes were in tatters. All of them reportedly lived in a “tiny wooden house with a straw roof,” and lived on $5 a day earned from “harvesting corn and beans.” Caal's mother, Claudia, said her daughter liked to climb trees. Caal's grandfather said she “leapt with joy” when her father told her about the trip she would take with him. When she arrived in the U.S., Caal hoped she would get her first toy or would learn how to read and write. “Every time they ask me what happened to the girl, it hurts me again,” Claudia Maquin was quoted as saying.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has said Caal showed “no signs of distress” upon being taken into custody. However, Caal reportedly started to vomit and her body temperature started to rise while being transported on a bus. According to the AP, she died of “swelling on her brain and liver failure” at an El Paso hospital hours later. An autopsy is reportedly scheduled to determine cause of death, and Homeland Security’s inspector general’s office has opened an investigation.