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 the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, saying it “is a very sad example of the dangers to migrants.”
The girl and her father were detained on Dec. 6 at around 10 p.m. along with a group of 163 other people who surrendered to border agents, the Washington Post reported.
Less than nine hours later, she began to have seizures. Emergency responders were called and discovered her temperature had risen to 105.7 degrees. CBP found that she “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days.”
The girl was flown to an El Paso hospital and initially revived, but went into cardiac arrest and died less than 24 hours later. Her father is currently in El Paso awaiting a meeting with Guatemalan consular officials.
A Border Patrol form completed shortly after she was stopped documented that 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.
“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.
FOX & FRIENDS: What do you know about the 7-year-old girl who died in Border Patrol custody?@SecNielsen: "This is just a very sad example of the dangers of this journey. This family chose to cross illegally… I cannot stress [enough] how dangerous this journey is." pic.twitter.com/bjFMdFlW3E
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 14, 2018
CBP has reportedly opened an investigation into the incident.
“Our sincerest condolences go out to the family of the child,” CBP spokesman Andrew Meehan said in a statement to the Washington Post. “Border Patrol agents took every possible step to save the child’s life under the most trying of circumstances. As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill) on Friday called for Nielsen to resign.
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.
“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.