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SALT LAKE CITY — After a 7-year-old migrant girl died this week following her trek to the United States, former Republican congressman Jason Chaffetz says the message to other migrants thinking about making the same trip should be “Don’t make this journey; it will kill you.”
Chaffetz, who represented Utah’s 3rd Congressional District from 2009 to 2017, made the comment on Fox News on Friday evening during a panel discussion.
“Look, the sad reality is we have a 7-year-old girl who has died, and she should have never, ever made that journey,” Chaffetz said. “And that should be the message: Don’t make this journey; it will kill you, and that should be the message.”
In a year where immigration, border walls and migrant caravans made headlines, Chaffetz' comments sounded among the many seeking greater border control, including those from Utah's congressional delegation.
Chaffetz was speaking about the death of Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin. The girl and her father, 29-year-old Nery Gilberto Caal Cuz, made the journey from Guatemala to the United States, and crossed the border near Antelope Wells, New Mexico, according to the Associated Press.
The pair were intercepted Dec. 6, along with a group of other migrants by border patrol agents, and taken to a "forward operating base," where there was food and water, but no medical aid, according to The Associated Press. A form, signed by her father, indicated her health was fine when she left the facility.
Later, Jakelin was on a bus to the nearest Border Patrol station, but she got sick and stopped breathing by the end of the ride. She was taken to a Texas hospital where she died on Dec. 8.
Chaffetz’s quote surfaced after a Twitter user posted the clip Friday and it made the rounds on social media.
He was acting as guest host on Sean Hannity’s show on the network, according to The Hill. Chaffetz also said would-be migrants should stay in their countries of origin, go to foreign embassies there and apply for visas to other countries, according to The Hill.
Chaffetz hasn’t made further comments on social media about his Friday statements.
Though many Central American migrants apply for asylum upon reaching the U.S. border, that wasn’t the plan for Jakelin — her father had paid a human smuggler to sneak them across the border.
Jakelin's death and Chaffetz' comments both come a week ahead of a possible government shutdown Friday that in large part relates to a dispute over border security funding. With the looming shutdown deadline in mind, here are some examples of what Utah’s current congressional delegation — as well those who are incoming — have said recently about immigration.
Sen. Orrin Hatch
- “The family separation crisis at the southern border has revealed some significant problems with our immigration laws and the ways they’re administered. I hope we can avoid the urge to make this a political football … finding a productive way forward requires cool heads and a willingness to compromise. I hope discussions will continue so that we can find a solution that is fair to families, responsive to humanitarian needs, and consistent with the rule of law.” — July 31, in a Senate Judiciary hearing
Sen. Mike Lee
- "Due to the likelihood that such national security threats could mask themselves within this large caravan population, at a minimum, our federal government must prioritize the security of American citizens over anything else.” — Oct. 24, in a letter co-authored with Sen. Chuck Grassley, to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Sen.-elect Mitt Romney
- "I think the president has a responsibility to protect the country, and the determination made by him and by his administration was that certain countries could not assure that the people were being properly vetted and therefore not allowed to come into the country." — Oct. 26, after visiting a local mosque
Rep. Rob Bishop
Congressional District 1
- On why he thinks border control should be a top priority: "When we tell people we have absolute control of the border, then those other things can happen." — Oct. 17, during Utah's 1st Congressional District Debate
Rep. Chris Stewart
Congressional District 2
- "I think there’s room there to agree. I really do. The president insists on border security, but most Republicans do and a lot of Democrats do as well. ... I think it’s better for everyone if we keep (migrants) together as families." — May 31, during an immigration roundtable, according to KUER
Rep. John Curtis
Congressional District 3
- "(The United States) can't just open the doors and let anybody in to our country. We've got to be more thoughtful and methodical about it." — Oct. 23, during Utah's 3rd Congressional District Debate
Rep. Mia Love
Congressional District 4
- "For my family, the American Dream is a tangible reality, not just a fanciful concept. This gives me a unique perspective that can help facilitate immigration policy that works for everyone. We must invite, not just tolerate, diverse perspectives to the table and ensure that their voices matter." — Dec. 12, in a Washington Post opinion piece
Rep.-elect Ben McAdams
Congressional District 4
- “Separating families at the border is inhumane, immoral. Our country is better than that. The answer is immigration reform that protects the border, keeps families together, not empty words.” — Oct. 15, via Twitter