Geoff Nunberg, introduced by Terry Gross
Seven-year-old Jakelin Caal died in U.S. custody in December. Linguist Geoff Nunberg says her death might have been prevented had border agents spoken the Mayan language Q’eqchi’...
GEOFF NUNBERG, BYLINE: Nobody should need reminding that there’s more to the cultures of the land south of the border than just tequila and tacos. But people aren’t always aware that there’s more to them than just Spanish, too. That was brought home a few weeks ago by the heartrending story of Jakelin Caal or Jackie, as people have been calling her, the 7-year-old girl who died of dehydration in U.S. custody a few weeks ago. Administration officials denied they had any responsibility for the death. Shortly after he turned himself into the border patrol, the girl’s father had signed an English-language form saying she had no health problems after it was explained to him in Spanish. And after that, they said he’d been given plenty of opportunity to tell them about any changes in Jakelin’s condition.
Geoffrey Nunberg is an adjunct full professor at the School of Information.