The family of a 7-year-old migrant girl who died in Border Patrol custody is disputing US officials' account of her death

jakelin caal maquin guatemalaClaudia Maquin, 27, shows a photo of her daughter, Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin in Raxruha, Guatemala, on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018.Associated Press/Oliver de Ros

  • The family of seven-year-old Jakelin Caal, who died in Border Patrol custody last week, has disputed US officials' account of her death.
  • Despite what US officials say, Jakelin had been given food and water and was in good health during her journey to the US, her parents said in a statement on Saturday.
  • Jakelin's family is urging authorities to conduct an "objective and thorough" investigation into the death.
  • But the Guatemalan consul also said Jakelin's father said he had "no complaints" about the Border Patrol agents, and said they did everything possible to help her.

The family of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died in US Border Patrol custody is disputing an account from US officials who said she had not been given food or water for days.

In a statement released by lawyers, the parents of Jakelin Caal said the girl had been given food and water and appeared to be in good health as she traveled through Mexico with her father, 29-year-old Nery Gilberto Caal Cuz. The family added that Jakelin had not been traveling through the desert for days before she was taken into custody.

Tekandi Paniagua, the Guatemalan consul in Del Rio, Texas, told The Associated Press that he spoke with the Jakelin's father. The consul said Nery Caal told him the group they were traveling with was dropped off in Mexico about a 90-minute walk from the border.

Border Patrol officials did not immediately respond to the family's comments.

Paniagua also told CNN that Jakelin's father said he had "no complaints about how Border Patrol agents treated him and his daughter," and that agents did everything within their power to help Jakelin.

Read more: The 7-year-old migrant girl who died in Border Patrol custody fled an intensely poor Guatemalan village

border patrol station new mexicoThis Jan. 7, 2017 photo, shows the Antelope Wells port of entry from the El Berrendo, Mexico, side of the border with southern New Mexico.The Albuquerque Journal/Roberto E. Rosales via Associated Press

The family's statement was released Saturday during a news conference in El Paso, Texas, at an immigrant shelter where Jakelin's father is staying. Her family did not attend and has asked for privacy.

Jakelin and her father were seeking asylum in the US and were among a large group of migrants arrested Dec. 6 near a remote border crossing in New Mexico. Hours later they were placed on a bus to the nearest Border Patrol station, but Jakelin began vomiting and eventually stopped breathing. She later died at a Texas hospital.

According to a timeline released by Customs and Border Protection on Friday, Border Patrol agents first became aware of the girl's symptoms during the bus ride, which arrived at the station 90 minutes later - by which point Jakelin had stopped breathing.

Border Patrol officials on Friday said agents did everything they could to save the girl but that she had not had food or water for days. They added that an initial screening showed no evidence of health problems, and that her father had signed a form indicating she was in good health.

But the family took issue with that form, which was in English, a language her father doesn't speak or read. He communicated with border agents in Spanish but he primarily speaks the Mayan Q'eqchi' language.

"It is unacceptable for any government agency to have persons in custody sign documents in a language that they clearly do not understand," the statement said.

Read more: The 7-year-old migrant girl who died in Border Patrol custody received medical care 90 minutes after first showing symptoms

jakelin caal maquin guatemalaMembers of the Caal Maquin family and neighbors stand in front of Claudia Maquin's house in Raxruha, Guatemala, on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018.Associated Press/Oliver de Ros

Jakelin's family is urging authorities to conduct an "objective and thorough" investigation into the death and to determine whether officials met standards for the arrest and custody of children.

A cause of death has not yet been released. A private prayer service was held in Texas on Friday so her father could see Jakelin's body before it is taken to Guatemala, said Ruben Garcia, director of the Annunciation House shelter where her father is staying.

"All of us were moved by the depth of his faith and his trust that God's hand is in all of this," Garcia said.
Family members in Guatemala said Caal decided to migrate with his favorite child to earn money he could send back home. Jakelin's mother and three siblings remained in San Antonio Secortez, a village of about 420 inhabitants.

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