Why the Death of a Little Guatemalan Girl Matters to All of Us

Why the Death of a Little Guatemalan Girl Matters to All of Us

As tragic as the death of a young Guatemalan girl at the border was, where's the outcry for the unknown hundreds that perish in the desert?

Jakelin Amei Rosemary Caal Maquin is dead.  The seven-year-old died trying to cross into the United States illegally while traveling with her father from Guatemala, a 2,000-mile journey.  An autopsy will decide the actual cause of death, but both sides politically are arming up with accusations against the US Border Police and the parents of the child to place blame for the tragedy, a necessary act in whatever tragedy unfolds in our nation today.

Let’s let the authorities soft that out, over the course of the next few weeks.  But right now, let’s just mourn for the tiny life that was snuffed out, and the grieving parents and family members of Jakelin.

She and her father were not part of the “migrant caravan” that has garnered so much media attention in the last few months.  Theirs was the typical story of a family member trying to enter the US as a means to escape the desperation and poverty in their home country.  A scene that plays out almost every day and has been going on for decades.

Let’s not argue about immigration reform right now.  We have had numerous chances to solve this issue over the last 40-50 years, but never seem to come together over what should be done.  Had we tackled this problem in earnest, with bi-partisan support, Jakelin might not have died needlessly.  Will her death bring about needed reforms?  Not very likely.

Let’s not argue about whether or not Jakelin’s father, 29-year-old Nery Gilberto Caal Cruz, should have undertaken such a perilous journey with a seven-year-old girl in tow.  I’m sure the decision to make the trek was not made on a whim, and it may have been what he perceived as the only option.   I’m equally sure he did the best he could to provide for his daughter along the way, probably doing without himself, as most fathers would.

Let’s not argue about whether US Customs and Border Police could have prevented Jakelin’s death.  She was a part of 163 people trying to enter the US, including dozens of unaccompanied children, near Antelope Wells, New Mexico.  Realistically, it can be easy to see how one sick child could slip through the cracks.  Apparently, Jakelin’s father did not speak or understand English, and even Spanish was not his primary language.

According to reports, he was asked if either he or his daughter needed medical attention on a few occasions, but who knows if he actually understood what they were asking, or even to what point his daughter was sick.

Let’s be saddened at the death of Jakelin, but let’s also remember the hundreds, perhaps thousands that perish on the journey that are never reported, who died silently along the route to the US border, and whose remains and bones are scattered to the wind and the wild animals.  People, with families waiting desperately at home for word from their loved one who sought to better their lives by wandering to the Land of Milk and Honey.

Let’s also mourn for those who never receive the closure of knowing what happened to their fathers, mothers, and siblings, who paid unscrupulous men to transport them across the border, but took their money and left them to fend for themselves in the desert, or abandoned them in a furniture van in 100-degree heat to perish.

Those who promote open borders give these people false hope that all their problems can be solved by simply crossing into the US.  They don’t talk about the fact that there are no opportunities waiting for them here, and some may even be worse off than before upon arrival, unable to assimilate into a foreign nation.

Those who want to lock the borders down don’t understand the desperation faced daily by those who live under the mantle of poverty, oppression, and the constant threat of violence.  Placed in their shoes, I wonder how many of us would undertake the same journey.

The United States cannot accept every citizen of Latin America through our borders.  But something must be done to solve this problem.  Instead of bickering over walls, and border security, we should be thinking of ways to improve the lives of these people in their own countries, giving them hope, and a reason to stay.

Let’s not only make America great, but also make our neighbors great as well.  Let’s work together, Democrat and Republican, white, brown or black, to find meaningful immigration reforms, trade deals, and possibly investments in our neighboring countries to finally solve this crisis.

The time for politics has come and gone.  It’s now time for solutions.  Far too many little girls have already died.

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