The death of Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin is sorrowful. She was the 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died while in the custody of Border Patrol agents in New Mexico, where she crossed into the United States with her father.
Because of Jakelin’s age and the unfortunate circumstances of her death, there has been quite a response, both in Guatemala and in the United States. Many institutions have spoken up, demanding that border agents receive better training to be more sensitive to immigrants, especially in the case of young children who are totally unaware of the global and local realities mixed with parental desperation that push them into extreme situations.
Donald Trump’s administration reacted to Jakelin’s death by denying any responsibility, and such denials are typical of those in power. The same happens in Guatemala, where sensitivity has disappeared and no humanitarian actions are taken to prevent the exodus of millions of desperate emigrants whose flight becomes “irregular” when they leave the country.
Although the White House described the girl’s death as a “horrific, tragic situation,” it has avoided all responsibility. The country’s executive is not the one to investigate the tragedy, but it should be the responsibility of criminal investigators, because too much time elapsed between the time her father turned himself and his daughter in to border control and medical treatment.
The U.S. president continues to make demands on congressional Democrats to put more muscle into the laws against illegal immigration, but he will fail if he does not ensure responsibility from other actors in this drama. As long as conditions in Central American countries stay the same – including deeply-rooted corruption, criminality and lack of opportunities – irregular immigration will not stop.
The United Stated should demand higher standards from Central American countries. This would aid Central American economic development and de-incentivize the exodus from the region. Central American governments must be held to a standard of honesty, abandoning cronyism, and concentrating public spending in areas with limited possibilities for human survival.
A CNN report, recorded in Jakelin’s native region of Verapaz, shows a hopeless picture: a population without the elements of a basic diet, without work opportunities, and without essential household items. The obvious choice for someone living in such a place is to flee from such severely adverse circumstances.
The United States has been called upon to show more compassion to the migratory crisis, in particular the case of minors. We, too, must demand that our governments feel, and break away from organizing our societies along the lines of greed and cronyism.