I am sure many of you were as outraged as I was when I first heard about the children in detention. I was even more horrified to hear that several children had died in deplorable conditions in the custody of ICE and Border Patrol. This page is meant to be a sacred memorial for these precious children. There is a tradition in Mexico and Latin America called Dia de los Angelitos (or Day of the Little Angels) where parents who have lost children create ofrendas or altars to honor their children who have died. It was this tradition that inspired me to create ofrendas for these seven children who lost their lives in custody.
This tribute is meant to honor and bear witness to the deaths of these seven children while in U.S. custody. We mourn their loss. We grieve with their families. We denounce the policies that took their lives. We promise that they will not be forgotten.
- Michelina Nicotera-Taxiera
20 months old
Died May 10, 2018
After her death, Mariee’s mother Yazmin testified before Congress on July 10th, 2019. She said that “it is painful for me to relive this experience; but I am here because the world should know what is happening to many children inside of ICE detention...I’m here today because I don’t want any more little angels to suffer like Mariee. I don’t want other mothers and fathers to lose their children.” Mariee died on May 10th (which is Guatemala’s Mother’s Day) of a viral lung infection she contracted in detention.
Wilmer Josue Ramirez Vasquez
2 years old
Died May 14th, 2019
In Wilmer’s village there was extreme drought. There was no work and food was scarce and no medical care for . His mother left with him from their home in March. It took them 22 days to make the journey. He died of multiple intestinal and respiratory infections after being in the custody of Border Control.
Jakelin Caal Maquin
7 years old
Died Dec. 8th, 2018
Jakelin lived in an Indigenous community of Guatemala. She and her father traveled to the U.S. to escape the dangerous situation in their home country. Her grandfather remembered her jumping for joy when she found out they were migrating. Three days after her 7th birthday she died of complications from strep infection while in Border Patrol Custody. In her village a heart is constructed of wood to honor her.
Felipe Gomez Alonzo
8 years old
Died Dec. 24th, 2018
Felipe came to the U.S. with his father in mid-December. His rural community was suffering from lack of food because of climate-change induced drought. His parents decided that the father would make the journey north so that he could find work. They decided that Felipe would accompany him. Felipe hoped the extra money they would make could help him buy a bicycle of his own. Felipe died in detention on Christmas Eve of the flu.
Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle
10 years old
Died Sept. 29th, 2018
Darlyn had the courage to leave her small town in El Salvador by herself. She crossed the border with some family friends. She was trying to reach Nebraska where her mother lived. She died while in ICE custody of fever and respiratory distress.
Juan de Leon Gutierrez
16 years old
Died- April 30th, 2019
Juan’s former teachers called him “a humble child full of dreams...cheerful, intelligent, creative but shy”. He helped his father in the coffee fields; but drought due to climate change and depressed prices forced them to find alternatives. Juan left home by himself and migrated north to help support his family. He died of complications from infection while in ICE custody.
Carlos Hernandez Vasquez
16 years old
Died May 20th, 2019
Carlos was a standout student and leader at the village school he attended in his remote village. He was captain of the soccer team and excelled in playing musical instruments like the trumpet. Money was so tight in his family that Carlos would do farm work and odd jobs to help out. In early May he left his village with his older sister to seek work in the north to financially support his family. While in Border Patrol custody he contracted influenza. His fever shot up to 104 and instead of getting medical care he was put in an isolation cell where he died. More than 2,000 people attended his funeral in his home village.
Lind, Dara. The Death of 7 Year Old Jakelin Caal Maquin in Border Patrol Custody Isn’t An Isolated Outrage. Vox, December 18th, 2018
Hennessy-Fiske, Molly. Six Migrant Children Died in U.S. Custody. Here’s What We Know About Them. Los Angeles Times, May 24th,2019.
Moore, Robert and Sacchetti, Maria. Toddler Who Died After Being Taken into Custody At the Mexican Border Suffered Multiple Diseases. The Washington Post, July 2nd, 2019.
Silva, Daniella. Migrant Mom Details Daughter’s Death After ICE Detention in Emotional Testimony. NBC News, July 10th, 2019.
Rocketto, Jesse Morales. A 2-Year-Old Boy Detained at the Border Has Died After Weeks in the Hospital. Buzzfeed News, Sept. 30th, 2019.
Jameel, Maryam and Moore, Robert and Schmidt, Susan. Inside the Cell Where a Sick 16-Year-Old Boy Died in Border Patrol Care. ProPublica, Dec. 5th, 2019, By Susan Schmidt, Robert Moore, and Maryam Jameel