December 18, 2018

Senator Warren Calls on Department of Homeland Security Inspector General to Conduct a Rigorous Investigation into the Death of a 7-Year-Old Girl in the Custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Tragic death raises questions about the Administration's policies regarding detention of children apprehended at border.

Text of Letter (PDF)

 Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Acting Inspector General (IG) John V. Kelly requesting a rigorous investigation into the death of Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old girl who died on December 8, 2018 as a result of dehydration and shock after she was taken into the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

 "The death of this child in CBP custody is profoundly troubling, and points to significant problems with Trump Administration policies on children detained at the border and on the implementation of these policies," Senator Warren wrote. "I ask that you conduct a rigorous investigation, and publicly release the results as quickly as possible."

 The Washington Post reported on December 13, 2018 that Jakelin had been traveling from Guatemala with her father and was part of a group of 163 migrants who were apprehended by CBP officials on December 6 in a remote part of the New Mexico desert. However, approximately eight hours after being taken into custody and after Jakelin had passed an initial health screening, Jakelin's father notified a CBP agent that she was sick and vomiting. Her condition quickly deteriorated, and she died on December 8 at Providence Children's Hospital in El Paso, Texas.

 On December 14, 2018, CBP released a statement that Border Patrol agents conducted an initial screening that "consisted of an interview and observation of the detainee to identify any health or safety problems to ensure that they receive necessary medical care." CBP claimed that the screening failed to reveal any health issues Jakelin was suffering from, despite the fact that she was a mere hours away from going into shock, cardiac arrest, and liver failure.

 Jakelin's tragic death occurred on CBP's watch. In her letter, Senator Warren emphasized her concern over the safety and effectiveness of the policies and procedures employed by CBP when apprehending and detaining migrants. The Inspector General announced on December 14, 2018 that the office would conduct a review of this incident. Senator Warren asked that this investigation be conducted expeditiously, and that the results be released to the public. She called on the IG to conduct an investigation that will:

  • Obtain a full accounting of the specific circumstances surrounding Jakelin's death; 
  • Provide answers as to how and why Jakelin died in CBP custody; and 
  • Determine whether CBP or any other Administration officials bear any responsibility for the circumstances leading to her death.