A UN expert on the human rights of migrants has urged a “thorough” investigation into the death of a 7-year-old girl in US Customs and Border Protection custody,
Felipe González Morales, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said US authorities “must ensure that an in-depth, independent investigation” is conducted into the death of Jakelin Caal Maquin.
“Access to justice for her relatives should be granted, including but not limited to having legal representation in the proceedings in a language they understand well,” he said, according to a UN news release.
“Redress to her family should be provided and if any officials are found responsible they should be held accountable,” the news release said. “The government should also address failings within the immigration system, and specifically within the US Customs and Border Patrol agency, to prevent similar situations.”
A law professor in Chile, González Morales stressed that the United States should stop detaining children “based on their migratory status.”
“As repeatedly stated by a series of UN human rights bodies, detention of children based on their migratory status is a violation of international law,” González Morales said.
“Detention is detrimental to the well-being of a child, produces long-term severe adverse impacts on children and cannot be considered in their best interests,” the release said. “It also exacerbates the trauma that many migrant children suffer along their migration journeys. … Detention of migrant children can never be used to deter migration.”
Gonzalez Morales said he has twice asked for an invitation from the US government to visit the United States, but has yet to receive a response.
“Conducting an official visit to the country would allow me to get first-hand, direct information about the situation of migrant children, especially on those who are being held in detention,” he said. “It would also allow me to present my recommendations to the US government to fulfill its international commitments to respect and protect the human rights of all migrants.”
Jakelin’s family says she fled Guatemala with her father, Nery Gilberto Caal, 29, in search of a better life. She survived the 2,000-mile journey from northern Guatemala only to die less than 48 hours after Border Patrol agents detained her at a US-Mexico border crossing.
Her body was repatriated to Guatemala on Sunday after being transported by plane from Laredo, Texas. Her remains will be transported to the indigenous community of Raxruha, where she was from.
Her death marked another flashpoint in the debate over the Trump administration’s hardline approach to immigration enforcement, with many — including Jakelin’s family — wondering if better medical care could have saved her.