News Roundup: Homeland Security Chief Grilled By Democrats Over 7-Year-Old’s Death

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelDecember 21, 2018 12:21 pm

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen faced tough questioning from Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee Thursday.

The hearing on immigration and border security came about a week after Homeland Security announced a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl died in border patrol custody. Jakelin Caal Maquin died December 8 at an El Paso hospital, two days after she and her father were apprehended in a remote area of New Mexico. A group of about 160 migrants was also detained.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Houston Democrat, asked whether language barriers played a role in Jakelin’s death. The Congresswoman said Spanish wasn’t the first language of Jakelin’s father.

“He did not speak Spanish eloquently; we have no indigenous language speakers down there,” Rep. Lee said. “We have no medical or medivac team on the ground. These are human beings. My first question – what actions have been taken – that these are human beings – (that) a 7-year-old girl that didn’t have to die?”

Secretary Nielsen replied border patrol did all they could.

“As the father told our officers and the consulate, he did indicate at first that there was no health issue,” Nielsen said. “We had no reason to believe otherwise. As soon as he indicated there was a health issue we did what we could do as quickly as possible to get her to medical care.”

Earlier this week, several other Democratic representatives from Texas visited border patrol sites in New Mexico to try to learn more about the circumstances around Jakelin’s death.

Conservation groups say a rare Texas lizard could be heading toward extinction after the state removed a conservation plan aimed at helping it. As KUT’s Mose Buchele reports, industry, conservationists and the federal government have spent years struggling over the Dunes Sage Brush Lizard.

The lizard lives smack dab in West Texas oil country – pitting its fate against the interests of one of America’s most powerful industries. Rather than list the lizard as endangered in 2012, the Fish and Wildlife Department signed off on a state plan that sought voluntary conservation efforts from landowners and industry.

When it became clear that wasn’t working, Fish and Wildlife started reviewing a new conservation plan. That’s prompted the Texas State Comptroller’s Office to essential cancel the old plan before the new one is finalized. Chris Nagano, a scientist with the Center on Biological Diversity, says that means “now, there’s no protection.” Nagano says the Fish and Wildlife Department should introduce a new conservation plan or list the species as endangered. And he adds if the department doesn’t act soon, it will face lawsuits from conservationists compelling it to act.

Just in time for the holidays, Texas gas prices have dropped to their lowest point this year.

Daniel Armbruster with AAA Texas says the average cost of a gallon of gas is now $2.02. “Really this is due to falling crude prices that we’ve seen since mid-October,” Armbruster says, “but we haven’t seen prices this low in Texas since about summer of 2017.”

The national average price for a gallon of gas is about 2.36.