Yazmin Juarez and her 19-month-old daughter, Mariee, entered a U.S. immigrant facility in Dilley, Texas. While in the detention center, the toddler developed a severe respiratory infection. Six weeks later the baby succumbed to the effects of the infection and now her mother is suing the U.S. government for $60 million for wrongful death.
Juarez claims the U.S. government’s detention center was in conditions that were “unsafe, unsanitary, and inappropriate for small children.” The claim also emphasized that the medical care she received was: “woefully inadequate, neglectful, and substandard.”
The mother and daughter came from Guatemala when they were, ultimately, detained at the U.S. border by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on March 1. They arrived at the South Texas Family Residential Center, where they remained for three weeks. Most of that time was spent by Yazmin desperately trying to save her daughter’s life. The little girl received prescriptions. However, they didn’t work.
ICE chose to discharge the pair although the baby was in situation to leave.
Juarez’s pro bono attorney Stanton Jones of Arnold & Porter explained what happened in a statement, “Mariee entered Dilley a healthy baby girl and 20 days later was discharged a gravely ill child with a life-threatening respiratory infection. Within a week of entering Dilley, Mariee was running a 104-degree fever while suffering from a cough, congestion, diarrhea and vomiting. The medical staff who discharged her weeks later noted none of these conditions and cleared her for travel without viewing Mariee, conducting any kind of examination, or taking her vital signs.”
The baby died of respiratory failure May 10.
Dr. Bernard Dreyer, the former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a pediatrician at New York University Langone Health, confirmed Mariee’s treatment was substandard. “After reviewing the medical records from Mariee’s treatment at the Dilley detention facility, it is clear that ICE medical staff failed to meet the most basic standard of care and engaged in some troubling practices such as providing care over a long period of time by non-physicians without supervision,” he said in Arnold & Porter’s statement, “If signs of persistent and severe illness are present in a young child, the standard of care is to seek emergency care.”
The South Texas Family Residential Center has been accused of being responsible for a child’s death. In August, another child — whose identity remains anonymous — died after alleged “abuse and neglect.” That family is also represented by Arnold & Porter.
“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.”
ICE spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea, denied the culpability of the detention center. She insisted that the center provides sufficient medical care and released a statement, that read: “ICE is committed to ensuring the welfare of all those in the agency’s custody, including providing access to necessary and appropriate medical care. Staffing includes registered nurses and licensed practical nurses, licensed mental health providers, mid-level providers that include a physician’s assistant and nurse practitioner, a physician, dental care and access to 24-hour emergency care.”