The Delano community organized a vigil and fought for justice Friday at a local park in honor of seven-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, a Guatemalan girl who died in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody.
Jakelin and her father Nery Gilberto Caal Cuuz escaped the treacherous living conditions of Guatemala and were seeking asylum in the U.S., along with other Central American migrants.
The caravan with Jakelin and her father eventually reached the U.S. border on Dec. 6. On Dec. 7, the migrants were spotted by border patrol and received health screenings. Jakelin was in good health, according to CNN. Shortly after, Jakelin became ill. She received medical attention and was transferred to the nearest children’s hospital where she was pronounced dead the next morning.
People in Delano were outraged after hearing of Jakelin’s death. They were furious but also compassionate.
Young community members of Delano lit candles for the unjust death of Jakelin Caal Maquin.
“If something happens that you don’t think is right, voice the injustice,” Delano city councilman Bryan Osorio said to a crowd of young people honoring the seven year old.
While this tragedy not only shatters one family, it also brings chills through the spines of many in the Central Valley, where an abundance of undocumented people search for a better life, just as Jakelin did.
“I think the community should be concerned about this because we never know who it could happen to, as we saw earlier this year,” Osorio said. “We didn’t think ICE would be involved in an event that implicated the lives of two immigrant parents.”
“Just to remind the people that this is not something normal,” Osorio continued. “This is something that could happen to anyone, being a predominantly immigrant community.”
Bakersfield College student Hector Jimenez helped organize the event to raise awareness in his community.
“Jakelin’s journey is Delano’s journey,” he said. “When you look around Delano, you can’t deny the fact that we have a huge population of undocumented people and that’s often something that gets overlooked.”
“We need to be aware that Delano has a cultural rich history in organizing Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, and all of those people planted the roots for change, and it’s up to us to water the seeds and to make the change happen.”
It is essential for some families to seek asylum and escape the troubling conditions of their home country, said Elizabeth Meza, a youth who attending the vigil.
“What pushes someone to actually leave their family behind — leave their children behind — cross the border knowing that they might die, I learned that they all left their native land because they were in search for a better life,” Meza said. “Whether there was too much corruption, whether they didn’t know if they were going to eat the next day or whether they just didn’t feel safe, people go through this journey to find a better life as Jakelin and her dad did so.”
The U.S. border is more than the physical wall or structure, said Angelica Rodriguez, a member of Loud 4 Tomorrow.
“We need to recognize how physically and emotionally draining and violent the border is,” she said. “We need to see it as a death cape whose function is to kill.”
The death of Jakelin Caal Maquin didn’t stop the willpower of Delano youth. Instead, it brought them together to raise awareness. The youth said they are determined to create a change.
Osorio said, “Jakelin didn’t make it but her story did.”