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7-year-old Guatemalan girl dies in CBP custody after dangerous trek to US

CNN's Ed Lavandera reports on the tragic death of a young migrant girl who was trying to cross the border with her father.

Posted: Dec 16, 2018 3:35 AM
Updated: Dec 16, 2018 3:53 AM

I love the holiday season. The family togetherness. The Christmas cards, the pictures, sent by friends, of their kids. Adorable—and almost as perfect as my own.

When we had our first, a good friend told me that having a child was like taking your heart out of your body and letting it walk around outside you. She was right.

And so I cannot imagine the pain, the shattering, searing, agony of a parent who loses a child. This story, reported by the Washington Post Thursday night, hit me hard:

"A 7-year-old girl from Guatemala died of dehydration and shock after she was taken into Border Patrol custody last week for crossing from Mexico into the United States illegally with her father and a large group of migrants along a remote span of New Mexico desert, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Thursday."

Jakelin Caal Maquin, doubtless as precious to her parents as my children are to me, was taken on a dangerous journey through the desert to a foreign land because her parents wanted to escape a place where half the population lives in poverty and nearly as many suffer from malnutrition.

But Jakelin did not escape death.

She and her 29-year-old father, Nery Gilberto Caal -- traveling in a group of 163 migrants -- had approached border agents in New Mexico on December 6 to turn themselves in. An initial screening by a border agent revealed no health issues for the little girl, and she and the others were given access to food and water while they waited for processing Customs and Border Patrol officials told CNN.

But the father alerted officials that the child was ill and vomiting shortly before the group was transported by bus to a border patrol base 95 miles away, CBP officials told CNN. "According to a statement from CBP, she 'reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days,'" the Post reported.

By the time the bus arrived, her temperature was 105.7 degrees, emergency responders said, and she was not breathing. Jakelin died Saturday at an El Paso trauma center, where she had been airlifted by officials.

"Unfortunately, despite our best efforts and the best efforts of the medical team treating the child, we were unable to stop this tragedy from occurring," the CBP official told CNN.

Americans, being Americans, will be heartbroken to learn of Jakelin's fate. We are the most generous, welcoming, big-hearted people on earth. But somehow, some of our leaders have instructed us to turn away from our hearts and our history and view that vulnerable, cherished child as an enemy. We are told that her family and others like hers, fleeing their homeland are "invaders," as if a 7-year old girl from Guatemala could threaten a country of 325.7 million people, with a military of 1.3 million, a reserve of 800,000 and 6,500 nuclear weapons.

No, the supposed threat from Central American refugees is not real. But the pain of the parents of that little Guatemalan girl is.

And the tragedy of their story has particular resonance at this time of year.

As a Catholic, I think especially of the Holy Family: the overpowering faith of Mary and Joseph; the overwhelming burden of raising the Christ child; the overflowing love that couple had for that helpless baby who had to be born in a barn; and the risky journey afterward when his parents -- seeing no other option -- left the only home they'd ever known, Judea, taking their baby on a perilous journey through the desert to a foreign land.

The story may be allegorical or fantasy for some. But for me as a believer it is real.

Those of us who believe in the divinity of Christ - and the majority of Christians voted for Donald Trump--have a special duty. We need to connect the pain of that panicked Judean family 20 centuries ago to the pain of this panicked Guatemalan family today.

Joseph and Mary did not wait in line for visas during the flight to Egypt.

They did not concern themselves with the niceties and complexities of immigration law. They were refugees, seeking safety from harm.

In his ministry, Jesus was absolutely clear about how we should treat that innocent 7-year old girl. Perhaps reflecting on His own time as a child refugee, He said, "For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in." (Matthew 25:35)

Of course, this unspeakable tragedy does not mean America should abandon its obligation to police its borders. Nor should we demonize the women and men on the front lines of our border who enforce our immigration laws.

But every American who traces their lineage to an immigrant -- and except for Native Americans that's all of us -- has a duty this Christmas to reconnect to the hopes and fears that brought our forebears here.

And as those of us who are Christians pray that we may be worthy of the sacrifice of our Savior, let us take a moment to lift up in prayer the Guatemalan parents who risked everything to take their little girl out of danger, but lost her in the process.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 480845

Reported Deaths: 6511
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin997381576
Ramsey42744796
Dakota35818383
Anoka33010383
Washington21862253
Stearns18683200
St. Louis14655262
Scott13119107
Wright12414114
Olmsted1170088
Sherburne866373
Carver756340
Clay683686
Rice664291
Blue Earth587235
Kandiyohi576674
Crow Wing514780
Chisago493644
Otter Tail479470
Benton441390
Winona414248
Mower400231
Douglas390768
Nobles385347
Goodhue383368
Polk341062
McLeod336349
Beltrami335350
Morrison321846
Lyon311543
Itasca308545
Becker307841
Isanti303453
Carlton298544
Steele297611
Pine280616
Freeborn276823
Nicollet252341
Todd244030
Brown240737
Le Sueur230520
Mille Lacs225747
Cass218124
Waseca206917
Meeker205534
Martin186728
Wabasha18543
Roseau178317
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Houston156414
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Redwood146327
Fillmore13648
Chippewa135735
Cottonwood133520
Wadena128120
Pennington127016
Faribault121716
Aitkin117833
Sibley116410
Rock115513
Watonwan11518
Kanabec106719
Pipestone100724
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Murray9418
Jackson92510
Swift87218
Pope7885
Marshall76815
Stevens7378
Lake72617
Clearwater71514
Lac qui Parle68216
Wilkin66510
Koochiching61711
Big Stone5123
Lincoln5032
Grant4888
Norman4648
Mahnomen4377
Unassigned43668
Kittson40721
Red Lake3544
Traverse3015
Lake of the Woods2131
Cook1190

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 359747

Reported Deaths: 5357
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57625545
Linn20536311
Scott18203205
Black Hawk16187286
Woodbury14875211
Johnson1374173
Dubuque13480194
Dallas1123790
Pottawattamie10716140
Story1012945
Warren550271
Clinton540783
Cerro Gordo531080
Webster515686
Marshall493772
Sioux491568
Buena Vista469736
Des Moines455059
Muscatine446789
Wapello4261107
Jasper406865
Plymouth393377
Lee373551
Marion356969
Jones293854
Henry292535
Carroll284048
Bremer276554
Crawford272035
Boone258230
Washington253145
Benton250454
Mahaska223145
Jackson220438
Dickinson216338
Tama211564
Kossuth206954
Clay192925
Hamilton191641
Delaware188539
Winneshiek186926
Fayette184033
Buchanan183630
Page181619
Hardin179638
Wright179131
Harrison178969
Cedar175522
Clayton168153
Butler165731
Floyd162439
Mills162420
Cherokee153535
Madison153418
Poweshiek153429
Hancock146529
Lyon145441
Iowa143823
Allamakee143644
Appanoose138447
Grundy138230
Jefferson137532
Winnebago137530
Calhoun133010
Cass132448
Mitchell130040
Louisa127941
Union125931
Chickasaw124613
Sac123718
Emmet120740
Shelby119933
Franklin118319
Humboldt116725
Guthrie116028
Montgomery104036
Palo Alto103921
Howard102421
Clarke99220
Keokuk97529
Unassigned9300
Monroe92628
Adair91626
Ida90732
Pocahontas85419
Davis82223
Monona81525
Greene76610
Lucas73121
Osceola70014
Worth6907
Taylor66312
Fremont5869
Decatur5729
Van Buren55818
Ringgold51416
Wayne48621
Audubon4839
Adams3244
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