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  • Rosendo Noviega, a 38-year-old migrant from Guatemala, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, holds his daughter Belinda Izabel.

    Rosendo Noviega, a 38-year-old migrant from Guatemala, part of a caravan of thousands from Central America en route to the United States, holds his daughter Belinda Izabel. | Photo: Reuters file

Published 9 January 2019

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights demanded that the US investigates the deaths of the Guatemalan children migrants who died in its custody.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) demanded Monday that the United States conduct an investigation into the deaths of two Guatemalan children, who were under the supervision of the border patrol.

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The two children, Jakeling Caal Maquin and Felipe Gomez Alonzo, crossed into the United States from Mexico after being detained with other migrants who did not have proper documentation.

“The IACHR urges the government of the United States to investigate the circumstances leading to these deaths and calls for the adoption of the necessary measures in order to guarantee the right to life, integrity, and health of migrant persons under its jurisdiction, most importantly boys, girls and adolescents,” the organization’s official statement said.

The Hispanic caucus of the U.S. Congress also criticized President Donald Trump’s insistence on pushing forward with the border wall project. The caucus President Joaquin Castro said the government’s heavy-handed security policies being the preferred means to deal with the migratory crisis will only serve to worsen the humanitarian situation already taking place.

The Guatemalan girl, Jakelin Caal Maquin, age 7, was apprehended with her father by U.S. border patrol while crossing through a desert area in New Mexico. She was initially taken in to be registered at the border-crossing post in Antelope Wells, the court disclosed.

The girl did not present any health issues at this time, according to the father and U.S. officials.

However, on the road from the registry place to the Lordsburg outpost, the father informed agents the girl was “feeling ill” and that she was “vomiting,” according to the IACHR report. She was then transported by helicopter to a nearby hospital in El Paso, where she suffered cardiac arrest. At the time of her death, she exhibited signs of brain swelling and renal insufficiency, according to official statements.

As for the 8-year-old Guatemalan boy, official statements say he did not show any signs of illness at the time of being detained on Dec. 18. However, on Dec. 24, he began to show symptoms of being sick, which prompted his caretakers to transport him to Hospital Gerald Champion where he was diagnosed with a common cold. The boy remained under observation for a few hours before being discharged with prescribed medications. Later that afternoon, the boy was brought back to the hospital where he remained until the time of his death, near midnight.

In response to these tragic events, the IACHR stated that the U.S. has certain obligations under international law to guarantee children’s well-being. “In accordance to international human rights norms and standards, the United States of America has the obligation to prevent human rights violations and considers necessary to point out that the authorities of the United States should consider the individual circumstances of migrants people and asylum seekers who are within their border...giving the appropriate attention to people who may be in a situation of risk.”

So far, Washington has avoided taking responsibility for the deaths. Instead, President Donald Trump blamed “the Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies” for the death of the children, arguing they would not try to enter the United States illegally if there was a border wall.

Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants for the United Nations Felipe Gonzales Morales called on the Trump administration to halt the detention of children, unaccompanied or with their families, based on their migratory status, and to seek alternatives. 

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