Jakelin should be here today. Her father should be able to hold her in his arms. Her family should be watching her grow and explore in her new country.
But she is not, and U.S. border policy is to blame.
One year ago today, 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin died while in Customs and Border Protection custody, two days after having crossed the border. She was from Guatemala, of the Maya Q’eqchi’ Nation.
Every day, children like Jakelin arrive at the U.S./Mexico border in pursuit of a better life. Too many of them have died in that pursuit.
In the past 15 months, six migrant children have died in U.S. custody. In that same period, eight children died while attempting to cross the border. Two more went missing and are presumed dead.
We need justice for Jakelin and humane treatment of all who arrive at our border. Tweet using the hashtag #JusticeForJakelin on social media today.
Each one of these deaths is a terrible tragedy. And too many have happened on our watch.
Trump’s cruelty has risen to crisis levels. In fact, prior to the Trump Administration, border agents had not had a child die in their custody for over a decade.
The cruelty inflicted on immigrant families seeking asylum is only getting worse under the “Migrant Persecution Protocol.” Asylum seekers should be pursuing their asylum claims here with their families in communities eager to receive them. Instead, they are stranded in Mexican border cities, exposed to kidnapping and extortion.
Since the implementation of the MPP, Human Rights First has tallied at least 138 publicly reported cases of kidnapping or attempted kidnapping of children in the program.
Trump is intentionally inflicting cruelty on children—through family separations, squalid conditions in detention, and now the “Remain in Mexico” program where children have been kidnapped and families extorted—in order to punish their parents for coming here.
Here, a country that prides itself as a place where all are considered equal and all have fundamental rights.
But U.S. border policy has for far too long fallen short of that ideal. Decades of militarization of the border and immigration enforcement has culminated in a border regime where children who come into contact with border agents do not receive humane treatment. The rights and humanity of single adults who arrive alone barely even enter into the public conversation.
Border communities are demonstrating a better way. Our example shows a powerful alternative to Trump’s hate and militarization.
With each asylum seeker we welcome, each warm meal we serve, each family we reunite, border communities are demonstrating what we know to be true–that this nation can respond to humanitarian need with care and compassion.
At its best, our border is a place of encounter, where newcomers are welcomed and the rights of all are respected. Our federal border governance should reflect those values.
Please join us in calling for justice for Jakelin and humane treatment of all who arrive at our border. Use the hashtag #JusticeForJakeline on social media today.
Thank you for being a part of our effort to win a border region where families remain together and all can thrive.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column shows Jakelin Caal Maquín, a 7-year-old girl who died in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody, at a protest in El Paso, Texas, December 16, 2018. (Photo credit: Reuters/Jose Luis Gonzalez)
Editor’s Note: The above guest column is authored by John-Michael Torres, communications coordinator for La Unión del Pueblo Entero. It first appeared in an email alert sent out by LUPE. To learn more about LUPE or to contribute to the nonprofit, click here.