The father of Jakelin Caal, who died in United States Customs and Border Protection custody, has reportedly hired a pair of attorneys and is challenging the Department of Homeland Security's claims of how his daughter died.
Nery Gilberto Caal released a statement, through attorneys, on Saturday, claiming that he and his daughter — whom Border Patrol says died of prolonged hunger and dehydration — were properly fed, and that they had not spent days in the desert before declaring their intent to seek asylum at an official border crossing in New Mexico last week.
Buzzfeed News and CBS News report that Caal has hired Enrique Morneo and Elena Esparza to handle his case. The attorneys now say that, “Jakelin had not been crossing the desert for days. Jakelin’s father took care of Jakelin — made sure she was fed and had sufficient water,” and that they “sought asylum from the Border Patrol as soon as they crossed the border.”
The pair of lawyers also reportedly issued a threat to the Department of Homeland Security, warning spokespeople for the agency to cease “further speculation about her cause of death" because making "premature and inaccurate statements undermine the integrity of the investigation.”
It does not appear that the attorneys have presented any evidence to substantiate their claim that the official Border Patrol report on Jakelin's death is inaccurate, or that a further investigation is warranted.
A non-profit called Annunciation House, which is reportedly housing Jakelin's father, released the same statement to media on Saturday evening, the Arizona Central reports. The Annunciation House statement claims that Jakelin and her father traveled most of the way from Guatemala by bus, and that they had been dropped off only a 90 minute walk from the United States border.
The new claims fly in the face of a report issued by The Washington Post — hardly an outlet that openly supports the Trump Administration's anti-immigration efforts — which says Jakelin's father attested that his daughter was in good physical condition upon contacting Customs and Border Patrol, but that the girl began vomiting and convulsing while being transported from the border to a Border Patrol facility 90 minutes away.
Once the transport reached its destination, emergency responders attended to Jakelin and got her airlifted to a children's hospital in El Paso, Texas, where she later died of cardiac arrest. She spent a total of about eight hours in Border Patrol custody.
There has yet to be an autopsy and a formal declaration of Jakelin's cause of death, but Department of Homeland Security officials have said that Jakelin was in the final, desperate stages of dehydration and hunger, and that the child hadn't had food or water in several days before she and her father turned up at the border in New Mexico.
But pro-immigration activists have refused to accept the CBP's official word on Jakelin's death, and it seems that they may want more than just a simple explanation, even if the autopsy report substantiates the Border Patrol's claims that Jakelin died of severe dehydration and shock.
A protest at the border, which took place Saturday night, demanded an official independent investigation into Jakelin's death.