Accuracy in Media

A 7-year-old girl from Guatemala died in the custody of the U.S. Border Patrol, and despite the facts of the case, mainstream media has largely pinned the death on President Trump.

The girl appeared to have died from sepsis shock – a response to an existing infection already in her body that can cause rapid organ failure and death, NBC News’ Amanda Covarrubias reported in “Guatemalan girl likely died of sepsis shock after crossing border, hospital officials said” – subhead: Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, had a 105.9-degree temperature and was revived twice by medical technicians before being life-flighted to a hospital.”

The story tells of how the girl was picked up with her father as part of a group of 163 illegal immigrants attempting to sneak into the country in a remote part of the New Mexico desert. Hours later, after being put on a bus to a Border Patrol station, she became ill, started vomiting and, although revived twice, died at a hospital in El Paso.

“Her death raised questions about how well authorities are prepared to deal with such emergencies and provided fuel for critics of the Trump administration’s tough posture toward migrants crossing the border illegally,” Covarrubias wrote.

At the close, she wrote that attorneys for the girl’s family “refuted the idea that she had been taken on a dangerous journey with little food and water” and said the girl and her father, who was with her when she died, “were trying to ‘escape from the dangerous situation in their home country.’”

Indeed, she had not been traveling through the desert at all in the days leading up to she and her father being detained in New Mexico, but rather had been dropped off with her dad a 90-minute walk south of the border, Huffington Post reported in “Family of Migrant Girl Disputes U.S. Officials’ Story of Her Death.”

The Washington Post focused on the blame game as well. “Trump administration not to blame for ‘tragic’ death of 7-year-old girl in Border Patrol custody, White House says,” read the headline on the story Friday by John Wagner and Nick Miroff.  

The reporters asked a White House spokesman if the administration is “taking any responsibility for the girl’s death.” The spokesman responded: “Does the administration take responsibility for a parent taking a child on a trek through Mexico to get to this country? No.”

In the original story of the incident, “7-year-old migrant girl taken into Border Patrol custody dies of dehydration, exhaustion,” by Miroff and Robert Moore, the second paragraph noted the child’s death “is likely to intensify scrutiny of detention conditions at Border Patrol stations and CBP facilities that are increasingly overwhelmed by large numbers of families seeking asylum in the United States.”

Salon’s Matthew Rozsa reported that Jason Chaffetz, filling in on the “Hannity” TV program on Fox News, had said the girl’s death “should serve as a warning to other parents thinking of illegally crossing the border.”

He then offered another network’s coverage as an example of how it ought to be done.

“By contrast, CNN’s Chris Cuomo responded to the news of Maquin’s death on his Friday program by urging common sense immigration reforms that don’t demonize either side,” Rozsa wrote.

Politico ran the Associated Press story on the girl’s death, which segued quickly into a roundup of problems with holding facilities along the order, implying poor work by government agencies had led to the death.

“Immigrants, attorneys and activists have long raised issues with the conditions of Border Patrol holding cells,” the AP reported.

None of the stories cited above mentioned that the girl’s father told the Guatemalan Consul he has “no complaints about how Border Patrol agents treated him and his daughter” and that “agents did everything they possibly could” to help her.

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