EDITORIAL: A migrant girl dies at the border. She was no terrorist, Mr. President

SHARE EDITORIAL: A migrant girl dies at the border. She was no terrorist, Mr. President

Central American migrants traveling in a caravan, hesitate as others climb the Mexico-U.S. border fence in an attempt to cross to San Diego County from Playas de Tijuana, Mexico on Dec. 12, 2018. | Guillermo Arias/AFP/ Getty Images

The little girl, 7, was vomiting and burning up with a fever. She had just completed an exhausting, dangerous journey with her father from Guatemala to America’s southern border with Mexico on Dec. 6.

More than eight hours after being taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol in a remote area of the New Mexico desert for entering the U.S. illegally, the girl started having seizures. She died later at a children’s hospital in El Paso, Texas.

Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin and her dad were in search of a better life. Nothing more. And, by and large, that’s the case for most migrants moving toward our nation’s southern border. They are risking their lives making punishing treks through Mexico, and sometimes across American deserts, to escape poverty, violence or both in their home countries.

President Donald Trump doesn’t want you to see them in that light. He wants you to believe, based on nothing, that they bring “large-scale crime and disease.” He wants you to see terrorists.


“People are pouring into our country, including terrorists,”  Trump said Tuesday in a meeting with soon-to-be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to make a case for a border wall. “We have terrorists. But we caught 10 terrorists. These are over the last very short period of time — 10. These are very serious people. All of our law enforcement have been incredible, but we caught 10 terrorists, these are people that were looking to do harm.”

He told a lie, as he does. Ten terrorists have not been caught at the southern border. The State Department said in 2017 it had no credible information that any member of a terrorist group had traveled through Mexico to reach the U.S., and it expressed more concern about terrorists infiltrating the U.S. through Canada. But the latter won’t help Trump gain support for his southern border wall, so he doesn’t go there.

The White House responded callously to the Guatemalan girl’s death. Spokesman Hogan Gidley told the Washington Post, “Does the administration take responsibility for a parent taking a child on a trek through Mexico to get to this country? No.”

Spoken like a man who, much like his boss, doesn’t grasp the despair migrants face in their home countries.

Beyond that, the girl’s family is disputing statements from U.S. officials that she had not been given anything to eat or drink for days when she was picked up.

To be sure, there are plenty of questions to be answered by the Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security. When did officers realize the girl was sick? Was she really malnourished and dehydrated? How long did it take to get her medical care?

Border Patrol agents should never forget how fragile life can be for road-weary migrants. That message is lost on our president.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com 

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