Jakelin Caal Maquin, a Guatemalan citizen, died on December 6th of dehydration and malnutrition after she was airlifted by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials to the Providence Children's Hospital in El Paso, TX. She was 7 years old.
It is Christmas time all around the world, a time to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, a time to revel in the joys of the past year with family and friends, and a time to mark expectations for the future. Most of us will wake up on a Tuesday morning, grab a cup of coffee, and watch children of all ages open presents. We will cook a meal and share it with family and friends, and even vie for the title of "Ugliest Sweater" at the Christmas party.
However, for Nery Gilberto Caal, Jakelin's father, 161 other illegal immigrants detained without incident by CBP this week near Lordsburg, NM, and the CBP officials along that desolate stretch of our southern border, Christmas carries with it uncertainty, sadness, and death. Jakelin and the other 162 migrants crossed the remote New Mexico desert after an untold number of them traversed the more than 2,000 miles of Mexico that lies between Guatemala and the United States. According to the Washington Post (Democracy Dies in Darkness), Jakelin hails from the Alta Verapaz department, one of Guatemala's poorest, and speaks Q'echi', a pre-Columbian Myan language.
Without being there, we can only guess at Nery's reasons for separating his 7-year-old daughter from her mother, leaving her mother in Guatemala, and making the dangerous 2,000-mile journey. Even with my years of experience with foreign cultures, I can only begin to imagine the lure, the call of freedom and prosperity that rings in the ears of our poorest neighbors to the south. But even my imagination pales in comparison to the reality of their daily lives. We here in the US cry when our $200 a month cable "burps" during a big play or when we spill ketchup on our $400 purse, all the while our neighbors toil all month just to earn that wage. Yet we wonder why they make the journey even through the threat of danger?
The focus of this post is not to politicize her death by equating her father's journey to that of Mary and Joseph just because it's Christmas time. Nor is my purpose to call for immigration reform or revision of the procedures and facilities available to our warriors on the border. Rather, I prefer to entreat us all to be compassionate, yet firm.
"Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing..." (1 Peter 3:8-9, NIV)
Jakelin probably didn't choose to travel through the Mexican desert to reach America. Jakelin probably didn't choose to run out of food and water on the way, either. And I highly doubt Jakelin choose to be the subject of so many new articles, blog posts, and congressional conversations. Those are things I'm fairly certain of.
But one thing I'm absolutely sure of is that Christ didn't call us to argue over the cause of Jakelin's death; rather, He called us to be compassionate for everyone involved. In the wake of CBP's announcement that Jakelin has passed, we've seen Democrats blame the White House, the White House blame her father, and if we dig deep enough I'm sure some callous character is blaming poor Jakelin.
How about we stop pointing fingers and start talking to each other instead of talking at or talking past each other? No, I don't mean start debating the merits from one Party perspective or the other. I mean really talking. Sit down one-on-one, Democrat with Republican, Independent with Green, Christian with atheist, and talk. That kind of talking also demands listening – something we tend to ignore these days. Have compassion on Nery and the millions of other migrants who make the dangerous trek on only a hope and a prayer for a better life. Don't politicize it. Don't denigrate one side over the other. And don't go in "knowing" you are right and fail at winning your opponent to your viewpoint. Just don't.
"Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." (Jer 29:12, NIV)
If the God of the universe is willing to listen, what makes us so much better that we can only talk?
– Mark Klages is an influential contributor, a former US Marine and a lifelong teacher who focuses on applying a Christian worldview to everyday events. Mark blogs at https://maklagesl3.wixsite.com/website under the title "God Provides where Hate Divides," with a heart to heal social, political, relational, and intellectual wounds through God's divine love and grace. Mark can also be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-klages-04b42511/.