Family of Guatemalan Girl Who Died In U.S. Border Patrol Custody Says Child Was Healthy Before Death

The family of a young Guatemalan girl who died after she and her father were detained by U.S. border agents said that the 7-year-old was not in any medical distress before they were taken into federal custody.

Family members of Jakelin Caal Maquin made the claim in a statement released to reporters in El Paso, Texas, by the head of a migrants' shelter where the girl's father was staying, according to Reuters.

Read more: 7-Year-Old Guatemalan girl dies in U.S. Border Patrol custody

The statement said that the girl had access to adequate food and water on the journey to the U.S., refuting reports that she had gone days without any food or water and had become dehydrated during the trip from Guatemala to the U.S. border.

"Jakelin had not been crossing the desert for days," her family wrote in the statement, which Ruben Garcia, director of the Annunciation House shelter, said was prepared by the family's attorneys.

"She and her father sought asylum from Border Patrol as soon as they crossed the border," the statement said. "She had not suffered from a lack of water or food prior to approaching the border."

Already, the Trump administration has faced major blowback from immigration and human rights groups over Caal Maquin's death, with many asserting that the 7-year-old's death is an outcome of the Trump administration's hardline immigration policies.

However, in their statement, neither Caal Maquin's father, 29-year-old Nery Caal, or other family members appeared to blame U.S. border authorities for the 7-year-old's death, according to Reuters.

Garcia said that Caal had told him he had not thought his daughter was ill when they arrived at the U.S. border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico with dozens of other asylum seekers on the evening of December 6.

The shelter director said that Caal had also agreed with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's statements on the father and daughter's brief detention, including the assertion that there had been no indiciation that the girl was sick until several hours after their detention.

According to CBP, both Caal and his daughter had access to water and restrooms during the seven hours that they'd spent waiting to board a CBP bus expected to take them from Antelope Wells to another Border Patrol station at Lordsburg, approximately 95 miles away.

But just before the bus was set to depart, Caal told agents that his daughter was vomiting. And by the time they arrived around 90 minutes later, the 7-year-old had stopped breathing.

Caal Maquin received treatment in Lordsburg before being rushed to an El Paso hospital, where she died the next morning on December 8, from brain swelling and liver failure.

While the child's family members have not disagreed with CBP's account, they have called for an "objective and through investigation...within national recognized standards for the arrest and custody of children," according to Reuters.

The family also complained of CBP's use of interview forms printed only in English, which asylum seekers, including Caal Maquin's father, did not understand, with the family's native tongue being Q'eqchi', a Mayan dialect, and Spanish being their second language.

In an interview with Reuters, Caal Maquin's mother, Claudia Maquin, 27, who had remained in the family's home village of San Antonio de Cortez in central Guatemala, said that her spouse and daughter had sought to escape "the extreme poverty that we live in."

The couple still have three remaining children together, but Caal Maquin's family members said the 7-year-old girl shared an especially close bond with her father.

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Claudia Maquin, 27, mourns the death of her 7-year-old daughter Jakelin Caal Maquin, who died in a Texas hospital after she was taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents in a remote stretch of New Mexico desert. Maquin, pictured on December 15, has remained in San Antonio Seacortez village, in Raxruha municipality in Guatemala city. JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty
Family of Guatemalan Girl Who Died In U.S. Border Patrol Custody Says Child Was Healthy Before Death | U.S.