Thursday, May 23, 2024

Family of 7-year-old immigrant girl mourns her death

Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin received her first pair of shoes several weeks ago, when her father said they would set out together for the United States, thousands of miles from this small indigenous community in Guatemala where she spent her days plodding through mud and surrounded by coconut trees.

The 7-year-old was excited about the possibility of a new life in another country, relatives said Saturday. Maybe she would get her first toy, or learn to read and write, but instead she died in a Texas hospital two days after being taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol.

Jakelin’s family says her father paid a human smuggler to sneak them across the border; asylum wasn’t the plan. Sadness hangs in the air outside the tiny wooden house with a straw roof, dirt floors, a few bedsheets and a fire pit for cooking where Jakelin used to sleep with her parents and three siblings.

Grandfather Domingo Caal said the family got by on $5 a day earned harvesting corn and beans, but it wasn’t enough so Jakelin’s father Nery Caal decided to migrate with his favorite child to earn money he could send back home.

The people of San Antonio Secortez, a lush mountain hamlet with 420 inhabitants within the municipality of Raxruha, speak the Mayan Q’eqchi’ language, though most of the men also know Spanish. Domingo Caal translated for Claudia Maquin as she attempted to describe her daughter’s life while holding back tears.

Jakelin liked to climb trees, Claudia said, but she gives few details; “Every time they ask me what happened to the girl, it hurts me again,” Maquin said.