Several freshmen Democratic congresswomen wore pins to the State of the Union address honoring Jakelin Caal Maquin, the 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in December.
Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) donned the pin, which featured a photo of Jakelin, to Tuesday night’s address.
Jakelin and her father crossed the border illegally with a group 163 other migrants after surviving a 2,000-mile journey to the U.S. In less than 48 hours, the girl died from shock and dehydration while in the care of CBP on Dec. 8 in Antelope Wells, New Mexico.
“We are bringing Jakelin Caal into the room with us during the #SOTU,” Tlaib tweeted before the speech. “They said 12,800 children are in detention camps via federally contracted sites. Now they said it was more 15,000.”
Jakelin’s death sparked a nationwide outrcry, calling for humane treatment of migrants crossing the border. Many criticized the Trump administration’s controversial family separation policy, which was not being enforced at the time of Jakelin’s death, but has separated 15,000 unaccompanied migrant children from their parents.
Jakelin appeared fine when she arrived in the U.S. Her father signed a Border Patrol form declaring that she had no significant health problems.
It’s unclear if the father understood the English-language form and the Spanish a CBP officer spoke to him. A Guatemalan consular official told BuzzFeed at the time that the father was most fluent in one of the Mayan languages.
Jakelin and her father waited for several hours for a transport bus and then boarded the bus for the three-hour trip to Lordsburg, New Mexico. During the trip, Jakelin began vomiting and having seizures. When she and her father arrived at the destination around 6:30 a.m. Jakelin had stopped breathing.
A month later, 8-year-old migrant Felipe Gomez Alonzo also died in CBP custody.
Dozens of Democratic congresswomen wore suffragist white to the State of the Union address in the name of gender equality and women’s rights. In 2018, Democratic House members also wore black in a show of solidarity with the Me Too and Time’s Up movements.
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