Child dies weeks after ICE custody

A mother and her lawyers allege that ICE and those running an immigration facility in Texas provided substandard medical care for her toddler, who died six weeks after they were released.

Posted: Aug 29, 2018 10:11 AM
Updated: Aug 29, 2018 10:13 AM

A mother and her lawyers allege that ICE and those running an immigration facility in Texas provided substandard medical care for her toddler, who died six weeks after they were released.

Yazmin Juarez, 20, and her 19-month-old daughter, Mariee, were detained at a facility in Dilley, Texas, "with unsafe conditions, neglectful medical care, and inadequate supervision," according to her law firm in a statement.

Shortly after they arrived at the South Texas Family Residential Center in March, Mariee contracted a respiratory infection that her lawyers at the firm of Arnold & Porter allege "went woefully under-treated for nearly a month."

Officials in Texas say they are investigating the case, and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials did not respond to specific allegations made by Juarez and her lawyers.

On Tuesday, her lawyers filed a notice of claim against the city of Eloy, Arizona, which is the prime contractor for the federal government in operating the Dilley facility. The claim seeks $40 million for wrongful death. CNN did not receive an immediate response from the city of Eloy to a request for comment on the case.

Juarez and Mariee, who came from Guatemala, were detained by ICE on March 1 after crossing into the US via the Rio Grande. She sought asylum and the two ended up at the Texas facility, for almost three weeks, according to the law firm.

At the facility, Mariee became increasingly ill, according to a timeline of events released by the lawyers. Juarez repeatedly sought health care for her daughter, but didn't get the intensive medical treatment she sought and was prescribed various medication that didn't improve her daughter's condition, according to the timeline.

After they were released from the facility, Juarez and Mariee flew to New Jersey where her mother lives, and sought medical attention there the next day. Mariee was hospitalized for respiratory failure for six weeks and died at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia on May 10, according to Juarez's lawyers.

"A mother lost her little girl because ICE and those running the Dilley immigration prison failed them inexcusably," according to the law firm's statement.

"We are working with Yazmin and her family to obtain justice for the failures by ICE and others, and to ensure that no other family suffers such a needless and devastating loss."

Earlier this month, child welfare officials in Texas launched an investigation into the allegation that a child died after leaving the residential center. That investigation remains open and there is no estimated date for its completion, said Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

In response to a CNN query, ICE said in a statement: "ICE is committed to ensuring the welfare of all those in the agency's custody, including providing access to necessary and appropriate medical care. Comprehensive medical care is provided to all individuals in ICE custody."

Its statement didn't specifically address Mariee, but listed the medical staffing provided to people in its custody and how the agency spends more than $250 million annually on their health care.

Juarez's lawyers said Mariee was healthy, when she first arrived at the Dilley facility, but that her condition deteriorated.

Juarez sought medical treatment for her daughter on March 11 -- six days after they arrived at the Dilley facility -- according to her attorneys. The toddler was prescribed Tylenol after a diagnosis of acute upper respiratory infection.

But her lawyers say Mariee's symptoms became worse, losing weight, vomiting as well as developing fever and diarrhea. During their nearly three weeks at the facility, Juarez sought medical attention for Mariee at least five times, according to her attorneys. During her time there, Mariee received various other diagnoses that included acute bronchiolitis and an ear infection.

"After it became clear that Mariee was gravely ill, ICE simply discharged mother and daughter. Yazmin immediately sought medical care for her baby, but it was too late. Mariee died following six agonizing weeks in the hospital after leaving Dilley," according to her lawyers.

They allege that the conditions at Dilley were "unsafe and unsanitary conditions" and that the medical care was "deficient in both availability and quality."

This article has been updated to included notice of claim.

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