Throughout the year, the immigrants’ struggle was the protagonist of a highly polarized intermediate electoral campaign, which led to measures that affected them with increasing severity.
First was the cancellation of the DACA program, which allows tens of thousands of undocumented youth brought to the country by their parents to study and work.
Later, the authorities announced the cancellation, one after another, of the temporary protection status (TPS), a program that benefits for years workers from various Central American countries (Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador) and from other continents.
Finally, a mobilization whose real origin is still in mystery, shaped the so-called Migrant Caravan, with thousands of Central Americans lining up from their countries to Mexico and then to the southern border of the United States, seeking to enter and request asylum.
The rest is a known story, the one that had a first painful balance due to the death of two children – a boy and a girl – who were in the custody of the US immigration authorities.
Despite all these obstacles, the immigrant community in the country has remained firm, with the hope and the conviction of getting the political forces to agree and achieve truly equitable and comprehensive immigration reform.
For this reason, Washington Hispanic designated The Struggle of Immigrants as “The Theme of the Year 2018”, with the certainty that the American Dream will come true for all of them in the not too distant future.
The children Jakeline Caal Maquín, seven years old, and Felipe Gómez Alonzo, eight, are the symbol of the struggle of immigrants seeking a better future, which has been awarded “The Theme of the Year 2018” by the WashingtonHispanic Editorial Committee.
Felipe and Jakeline had big dreams despite their young age. They saw how their parents struggled with dignity in the midst of poverty in their towns in Guatemala. They were spectators of his daily struggle to bring a plate of food to their humble homes.
Misery, lack of work and crime haunted their neighborhoods, as happens with many of the residents, their friends and family. But they never saw them give up despite so many disadvantages. And they also listened to them speak in low voices about how to get out of this marginal situation. What to do? They said.
One day, little Felipe found out that his father Agustín was talking about rumors that many parents and their children could cross the United States border. Many had recently embarked on the adventure and were in search of that promised land, where they could escape misery.
The boy had told his father that his dream was to have a bicycle. One day Augustine told his wife that he would join the caravan as soon as possible. The next day, with some groceries, he came out of Felipe’s hand, his eyes bright with the pain of leaving the rest of his family but determined to realize his son’s dream.
He was unable to comply, despite having managed to cross the border with the minor and both having identified themselves to the US authorities in order to request asylum.
Felipe entered a fever on Monday, December 24, and was taken with his father to a hospital in Alamogordo, New Mexico, as confirmed by the Customs and Border Protection Office (CBP) in a statement.
Hospital doctors diagnosed the boy as having a bad cold and a fever. He was prescribed amoxicillin and ibuprofen and was released on the same Monday after being under observation for 90 minutes, the agency said.
But death was more: Felipe was taken back to the medical center with nausea and vomiting, and died in the early hours of Tuesday 25, when the world was celebrating Christmas.
That same day, Jakelin Caal, a seven-year-old girl who died three weeks ago, was buried when she was also in the custody of the Texas Border Patrol. Her remains were sent back to her impoverished town of San Antonio Secortez, where more than 400 peasants from the Alta Verapaz department, Guatemala reside.
The girl and her father, Nery Caal, were part of a group of 163 migrants who arrived earlier this month at the Mexico-New Mexico border. After her arrest on December 6, the father told an immigration agent that the minor was sick and vomiting.
The father signed a document saying that Jakelin was in good health, but it is unknown if he understood the text. The record was in English and the agents read it to him in Spanish.
An hour and a half later, Jakeline’s condition worsened. She “flew” in fever. Her temperature reached 105.7 degrees Fahrenheit (40.9 degrees Celsius) and she passed out. Emergency personnel had to use resuscitation procedures and were then airlifted to a hospital in El Paso, Texas. She did not resist and died on December 7.
Her remains were taken back to Guatemala, after the government of that Central American nation asked the United States to follow up on the case and determine the causes of the child’s death.
Jakelin was buried on the afternoon of December 25, a Christmas in which her dreams could not be fulfilled.
The father, Nery Caal, will attend a hearing in a US court on January 3, where his immigration status will be determined. Accepting asylum or refugee status may represent the culmination of Jakeline’s dream, which is the very aspiration of millions of immigrants who hope for a better future for themselves and their families.