Family of young migrant who died in government custody call for independent probe

The attorneys for the family of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died after being taken into federal custody said Wednesday they want independent medical experts to conduct an examination of the circumstances surrounding her death.

The attorneys for the family of Jakelin Caal, who died earlier this month in Texas, said a previously established Department of Homeland Security (DHS) office of the inspector general's investigation into the matter is inadequate.


"Our concern with that is that in past, Department of Homeland Security OIG investigations, their only inquiry was whether the actions met the standards set out by border patrol," one of the attorneys said at a press conference, calling the department's standard for medical screenings "very low."

"We’re asking for subject matter experts in the health-care area, particularly with minors … to look at what happened in that screening process," the attorney added.

"We need an inquiry to look at the actions taken, or not taken, to understand whether it met our constitutional standards, not the standards set out by Border Patrol," she said.

Caal crossed the U.S. border earlier this month with her father and a group of other migrants, but the family attorney's clarified on Wednesday that they were not part of the so-called caravan of Central American migrants that President TrumpDonald TrumpStowaway found in landing gear of plane after flight from Guatemala to Miami Kushner looking to Middle East for investors in new firm: report GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips MORE has trained his focus on in recent months.

Customs and Border Protection said in an initial statement that the young girl had "not eaten or had any water for several days," but the family's attorneys pushed back on that characterization.

On Wednesday, they said that Caal's father had been "very attentive" as the two traveled through Mexico via bus to ensure she had food and water. The attorneys added that the girl and her father were given cookies upon being taken into Border Patrol custody, but went hours without water.

The attorneys said they did not know if Caal's father had specifically asked Border Patrol agents for water while they were in custody.

The attorneys were critical of Customs and Border Protection for failing to seek out a trained medical professional to assess Caal's health when she was displaying symptoms of a medical emergency.

The government has said Caal died from dehydration and shock. The family's attorneys said they are awaiting autopsy results.

Democrats have expressed outrage at the girl's death and drew fresh scrutiny toward the Trump administration's treatment of migrants.