Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen blamed the death of a 7-year-old migrant girl in U.S. custody on her family, during an appearance on Fox & Friends early Friday morning.
The girl, identified as Jackeline Caal, from Guatemala arrived with her father in a group of 163 migrants at the U.S. border in New Mexico on Dec. 6. She reportedly began having seizures after she was detained and had a temperature of more than 105 degrees. Officials said Caal had “not eaten or consumed water for several days.” She died about 24 hours after she was taken, by helicopter, to a hospital in El Paso where Caal died of dehydration and shock. The Washington Post reported it wasn’t clear whether Caal was given food, water, or medical treatment before she fell ill.
When Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt asked Nielsen about the incident, the secretary called the situation “heart-wrenching,” but then noted that Caal’s death is “a very sad example of the dangers of this journey.”
“This family chose to cross illegally,” she continued. “What happened here was they were about 90 miles away from where we could process them. They were in such a large crowd that it took our Border Patrol folks a couple of times to get them all.”
“We gave immediate care, we’ll continue to look into this situation,” said Nielsen. “But again I cannot stress [enough] how dangerous this journey is when migrants choose to come here illegally.”
DHS repeated Nielsen’s sentiment in a Thursday night statement, noting that “traveling north illegally is extremely dangerous” but that “Border Patrol always takes care of individuals in their custody and does everything in their power to keep them safe.”
“We are begging parents to not put themselves or their children at risk,” the statement said.