7-Year-Old Jakelin Caal Maquin Died from Sepsis, Medical Examiners Say

Illustration for article titled 7-Year-Old Jakelin Caal Maquin Died from Sepsis, Medical Examiners Say
Photo: Courtesy of family

Seven-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, the small girl who died while migrating to the United States from Guatemala, died from a bacterial infection known as streptococcal sepsis while in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody, according to an autopsy.


The El Paso medical examiner released the autopsy report Friday. Sepsis was found in Maquin’s lungs, liver and spleen. She died in December, two days after she was detained alongside her father by CBP. By the time Jakelin made it to a children’s hospital in El Paso, she was having seizures and vomiting.

Rep. Paul Ruiz, a Democrat from California, told NPR that Jakelin was given “no physical examination including very basic vital signs that would have most likely identified that she had a fever ... or a fast heart rate.” The autopsy seems to confirm Ruiz’s claims, as several physicians who reviewed the autopsy for the New York Times said Jakelin would have “been visibly sick for many hours.”

According to Dr. Lee Sanders, chief of general pediatrics at Stanford University, Jakelin’s illness “takes hours to progress.”

Jakelin and her father Nery Gilberto Caal Cruz spent eight hours with CBP agents after being apprehended for illegally crossing the border as part of a large group of migrants. They were not placed on a bus departing for the Lordsburg Border Patrol Station. While in custody, Jakelin’s father was given a form to certify his child was healthy. Lawyers representing him say the form was in English, which Caal did not speak.

Jakelin’s death led Border Protection to begin improving its system for evaluating the health of small children. Jakelin’s family wishes to see an independent investigation.

“I wanted to know what happened,” said Jakelin’s father from Philadelphia, where he has been staying with relatives while awaiting the results of his immigration case.


Lawyers for Jakelin’s family said in a statement that the report “sheds some light on Jakelin’s cause of death, it still leaves many questions that require further review.”

Contributing Editor. When he's not pullin' up, he's usually jumpin' out. You can find him in the cut.



If they’d got her a doctor when she first said she was sick, they could have saved her life with a half dozen tablets of penicillin. Even if they waited until she was noticeably ill, an IV course of antibiotics would have seen her up and well within a few days. What a stupid, tragic, and utterly damn pointless waste of a life.