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New guidelines require CBP to report deaths in custody

Note: This story is more than 3 years old.

New guidelines require CBP to report deaths in custody

  • The remote desert in the boot-heel of New Mexico near the Antelope Wells Port of Entry.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comThe remote desert in the boot-heel of New Mexico near the Antelope Wells Port of Entry.

Following criticism that U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not disclose the Dec. 8 death of a 7-year-old girl held in Border Patrol custody, the agency announced new guidelines Tuesday on how the agency will quickly disclose a death in their custody. 

Immediately following the death of a person in custody, CBP will tell lawmakers about the incident with 24 hours, and issue media statements an hour after that. 

This process will alert more than a half-dozen offices within CBP, including the commissioner of CBP, Kevin McAleenan, and the Office of Professional Responsibility. The alert will also include the Inspector General's office, and the relevant consulate office through the State Department.

"To secure and maintain the public trust, CBP’s intent is to be accessible and transparent by providing appropriate information to the Congress and the public regarding any death occurring in custody," the agency said.

This policy echoes the one used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on detainees who die in custody at either an ICE facility or one run by a private-prison under an ICE contract. 

Late Dec. 6, Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin and her father, Nery Gilberto Caal, 29, turned themselves into Border Patrol after they crossed into the United States with 161 other people near Forward Operating Base Bounds, in the boot heel of New Mexico near the Antelope Wells Port of Entry, a remote and lonely stretch of terrain south of Interstate 10. 

Early the next morning, around 5 a.m., Jakelin's father told BP agents that his child "had become sick" and was "vomiting." She was transported to the Lordsburg station about 90 minutes away, but by that time her condition had worsened and she was flown by helicopter to Providence Children's Hospital in El Paso, Texas where she died at 12:35 a.m. on Dec. 8. 

In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security, the umbrella department for CBP and its component Border Patrol said that the girl died of "sepsis shock." 

Jakelin's death was not publicly disclosed by officials, but was instead uncovered by the Washington Post five days later. 

On Friday, the Inspector General's office of DHS announced they were investigating the girl's death, and that a report will be given to Congress and publicly published. 

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