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Mother of Toddler Who Died After ICE Detainment Sues for $60 Million - Do We Need to Reform the Family Detention System?

Time to reform the family detention system?

by Countable | 8.29.18

UPDATE - November 28, 2018:

  • The mother of a 19-month-old child who died shortly after being released from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in south Texas is suing the U.S. government for $60 over her daughter's death.
  • The claim is against multiple U.S. agencies.
  • Lawyers for Yazmin Juárez argue that her daughter, Mairee, developed a respiratory illness while the two were being held at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. Mariee was healthy enough upon arrival to be cleared for detention at Dilley. But one week after arriving, the child developed a cough, congestion, and a fever of over 104 degrees.
  • Attorneys are accusing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of releasing Mariee without treating her condition. 
“Having made the decision to jail small children, the U.S. government is responsible to provide living conditions that are safe, sanitary and appropriate,” R. Stanton Jones, a lawyer at the firm representing Juarez, told the AP.
  • ICE and other agencies listed in the claim have declined to comment about pending litigation. But spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea said in a statement:
“ICE takes very seriously the health, safety and welfare of those in our care."

Read Countable's original story below.


What’s the story?

  • A Guatemalan mother is suing ICE, claiming her 19-month-old daughter died shortly after being released from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in south Texas.
  • The news comes as the Trump administration looks to expand its use of detention facilities to house immigrants who cross the border illegally. In June, immigration authorities requested 15,000 additional beds for detained immigrant families.

What’s the backstory?

  • In March, Yazmin Juárez, 20, crossed the Rio Grande with her daughter, Mariee, seeking asylum from violence in Guatemala.
  • Border agents apprehended Juárez and Mariee and transferred them to the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.
  • Mariee was healthy enough upon arrival to be cleared for detention at Dilley. But one week after arriving, the child developed a cough, congestion, and a fever of over 104 degrees.
  • Juárez's lawyers say medical staff prescribed Tylenol, an antibiotic, and honey, but Mariee's health continued to decline.
"The conditions at Dilley were unsanitary, unsafe and inappropriate for any small child," said R. Stanton Jones, a lawyer at the firm Arnold & Porter, which is representing Juárez.
  • Jones alleges that when Juárez raised concerns about her daughter's deteriorating condition she wasn't taken seriously.
"The medical care that Mariee received in Dilley was neglectful and substandard," Jones said.
  • Legal papers filed Tuesday claim Mariee was still ill when she and her mother were released from Dilley to stay with family in New Jersey. Hours after arrival, Juárez took Mariee to the emergency room. Six weeks later, Mariee died.
"It was unimaginably painful for Yazmin," Jones said.

What is ICE saying?

In an emailed statement to news outlets, ICE said:

"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."

What are medical professionals saying?

  • A pediatrician who reviewed Mariee's medical records disputes ICE's claims, and says the child did not receive adequate care in Dilley.
  • "Nobody at any time decided to actually have a pediatrician or a doctor see the child," said Benard Dreyer, the director of pediatrics at the Bellevue Hospital Center in New York, and a past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"Can we guarantee that if [she] had been sent to the hospital a week earlier, it wouldn't have been too late? I can't guarantee that," Dreyer told NPR. But he adds, "the child was very sick and should have been sent to a hospital."
  • In July, two doctors contracted by the Department of Homeland Security released a scathing assessment of care at Dilley and other family detention centers.
"The threats to health and safety of the children are not merely theoretical," the doctors wrote. Family detention is "an exploitation and an assault on the dignity and health of children and families."

What do you think?

Are you concerned about the medical care children receive at family detention centers? Do you support ICE’s plan to expand the use of the facilities? What should happen to unauthorized immigrants once they cross the border—detainment or monitoring devices? Hit Take Action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.

—Josh Herman


Photo Courtesy Yazmin Juárez

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