Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Friday blamed the death of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl in Border Patrol custody on her family for crossing illegally — saying it “is a very sad example of the dangers to migrants.”
“It’s heart-wrenching is what it is, and my heart goes out to the family,” Nielsen said in an appearance on “Fox & Friends.”
“This is just a very sad example of the dangers of this journey. This family chose to cross illegally. They were about 90 miles away where we could process them,” she said.
“They came in such a large crowd that it took our Border Patrol folks a couple times to get them all. We gave immediate care, we’ll continue to look into the situation. But, again, I cannot stress how dangerous this journey is when migrants come illegally.”
Jakelin Caal was traveling with her dad Nerv Caal, 29, an official with Guatemala’s foreign ministry told The Associated Press. The Guatemalan government had earlier identified her as Jackeline.
The were detained Dec. 6 along with other migrants who turned themselves in to US agents in a desolate stretch of New Mexico, a source at US Customs and Border Protection told The Post on Thursday.
The girl had gone several days without food and water, according to the Department of Homeland Security, but immigration officials said she did not appear to be ill when detained.
A Border Patrol form completed shortly after she was stopped said she was not sweating, had no tremors or visible trauma and was mentally alert.
“Claims good health,” according to the form, which Jakelin’s father appeared to have signed after being interviewed in Spanish.
She began having seizures about eight hours after she was put in CBP custody. When paramedics arrived, her body temperature was 105.7 degrees.
She was revived by medical personnel and flown to a hospital in El Paso, Texas, where she died after going into cardiac arrest.
Doctors said the cause of death was septic shock, fever and dehydration. She was found to have swelling in her brain and liver failure, US officials said Friday.
An autopsy was scheduled and the results could take weeks.
“The agents involved are deeply affected and empathize with the father over the loss of his daughter,” said Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan.
“We cannot stress enough the dangers posed by traveling long distances, in crowded transportation, or in the natural elements through remote desert areas without food, water and other supplies.”
The Office of the Inspector General, which looks into alleged misconduct by public employees, will take the lead on the case, a DHS official said Friday on condition of anonymity.
White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley called her death a “horrific, tragic situation.”
“Obviously, our hearts go out to the family and to anyone who’s suffered any type of danger and peril that they see so often when they make that trek up from the southern border,” he told reporters Friday. “It’s a needless death and it’s 100 percent preventable.”
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said the girl’s death was part of a larger moral problem of the Trump administration’s treatment of migrants who make a perilous journey to escape violence, and cuts to programs aimed at helping to stabilize Central American countries.
“I think we should do everything we can to help make sure families don’t feel compelled to make that risky trip, but once they do, Border Patrol needs to do everything they can to avoid this kind of senseless and needless loss of life, particularly for children,” Coons told MSNBC.
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Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill) on Friday repeated his call on Twitter for Nielsen to resign, citing the case.
In other comments on “Fox & Friends,” Nielsen slammed immigrants who marched on the US Consulate in Tijuana, Mexico, demanding that they either be permitted to enter the US or be paid $50,000 to return home.
“As an American, I think that’s outrageous. These are folks in the caravan who have made political demands,” she said.
“They’ve asked us to intervene in the government of Honduras, they’ve demanded that Americans pay them $50,000 each and they’ve demanded that we change the way in which we do immigration and how we protect our border,” Nielsen said.
“These are not migrants who are seeking asylum,” she added.
Nielsen also reiterated President Trump’s calls for additional funding for a wall along the Mexican border.
On Tuesday, Trump told House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer that he would be “proud” to shut down the federal government if Congress doesn’t give him the $5 billion he wants for the wall.
Democrats have offered no more than $1.6 billion for his project. Mexico has repeatedly rejected Trump’s demand that it pay for the wall.
With Post Wires
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