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Girl, 7, who died after being detained at US border was healthy: Dad

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Family disputes news reports that she had gone days without food, water

EL PASO A young Guatemalan girl who died after she and her father were detained by US border agents was in no medical distress when they arrived and had received adequate food and water on their journey, relatives said on Saturday through representatives in Texas.

A statement from the family of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, released to reporters in El Paso, Texas, by the head of a migrants shelter where her father was staying, disputed media reports that the girl had gone days without food or water and become dehydrated while travelling from Guatemala through Mexico to the US.

News of the child's death, and suggestions that border officials ignored or overlooked a medical crisis, added to criticism from migrant advocates and congressional Democrats of President Donald Trump's hard-line immigration policies.

But neither the father nor other family members cast blame on US border authorities in their first statements about the tragedy.

Mr Ruben Garcia, director of the Annunciation House shelter, said the girl's father, Mr Nery Caal, 29, told him he had no inkling his daughter was ill when they arrived by bus with other migrants at the US border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico, on the night of Dec 6.

Mr Garcia also said the father agreed with the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) account of the father and daughter's brief detention, including CBP's assertion there was no indication that the girl had been suffering from any medical problem until several hours after their arrival.

"Jakelin had not been crossing the desert for days," her family wrote in the English-language statement, which Mr Garcia said was prepared by their attorneys.

"She and her father sought asylum from Border Patrol as soon as they crossed the border," the statement said. "She had not suffered from a lack of water or food prior to approaching the border."

The US Department of Homeland Security's office of inspector general vowed to conduct an inquiry. Democrats on Capitol Hill want that probe to examine why Congress was not informed of the incident within 24 hours, as they said is required of any death in CBP custody. - REUTERS