4 Freshman Congresswomen Wore a Photo of the Guatemalan Girl Who Died in US Detention to the SOTU
Women sent a loud and proud message at Tuesday night’s 2019 State of the Union address, where dozens donned suffragette-white in a show of solidarity, and as a signal of the women-led political future to come. But some women also sent a subtler but no less meaningful sartorial message. Freshman Democrat congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayana Pressley, and Ilhan Omar each wore a pin featuring the photo of Jakelin Caal, the seven-year-old Indigenous Guatemalan girl who died in US Border Patrol custody last December.
Caal and her father were arrested and detained by border officials on December 6, 2018. One of the Washington Post reporters who first broke the story told NPR’s Morning Edition that the girl had not eaten or had water for several days prior. Within a day of entering custody, the child reportedly began to have seizures and ran a temperature of 105.7 degrees. Caal’s father reportedly notified border agents that his daughter had been vomiting for a full hour-and-a-half before she was airlifted to Providence Children’s Hospital in El Paso, Texas, for treatment. She died shortly thereafter.
Caal’s death was followed within weeks by the death of eight-year-old Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, another Guatemalan immigrant child in US border custody. The two tragedies prompted the head of Customs and Border Protection to plead with Congress for more funding to better process the surge of people — and specifically, the unprecedented influx of families with children — crossing the southern US border.
n December 2018, NPR reported that some 15,000 migrant children were being held at shelters that were “92 percent full,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
In the hours leading up to Trump’s address, Tlaib tweeted, “We are bringing Jakelin Caal into the room with us during the #SOTU,” and tagged Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, and Omar: a statement of unity in an important fight.
(Photos by Alex Wong + Win McNamee / Getty)