We are ashamed by Jakelin’s death. A rational and just immigration system would leave no room for the death of any asylum-seeker entering our country, let alone a seven-year-old girl. Our thoughts are with Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin’s family, and our actions will be too.
For too long, our country has disincentivized presenting at a port of entry — clogging them with months-long lines and arbitrarily denying asylum hearings — while at the same time punishing those who are driven to cross outside of one.
This group was driven to an impossible choice: Present at a port and wait months with no guarantee of a fair hearing, or cross on your own and hope border agents will take you in safely. Unfortunately, there is no safety in the custody of an agency that has a long history of torture and abuse against migrants.
This was a predictable, preventable tragedy born of an immigration system that is set-up not to harbor those seeking refuge in our country, but to deny them asylum, torture them as they seek it, and finally deport them to death and danger.
There is no reason asylum-seekers like this child should be kept in inhumane conditions as they seek safety in our country.
We must ask what role the hieleras played in this death. When migrants first cross the border, they are almost always brought to hieleras — “ice boxes” with frigid temperatures where people are kept for days sleeping on concrete floors, drinking putrid water, receiving scant provisions, and totally unaware of the passage of time because there are no windows and no view to the outside world.
Our clients have described the hieleras as among the most traumatic part of the immigration system. Many have nightmares about them weeks and months after their stay, and they are constantly on their minds as the pinnacle of American cruelty. If this child was kept in a hielera, it is just the latest reason to call for their immediate end.
We join calls to demand a full investigation into this girl’s death. It should not have taken a week for this information to be made public, and we call for investigations into CBP’s actions against migrants when they first enter the country to ensure transparency.
A rational and just immigration system would leave no room for such arbitrary deaths.