Wrongful death

Woman who lost toddler due to illness in detention facility claims ICE refused to let her seek care

A photo of Yazmin Juarez and her late daughter Mariee who died after suffering a respiratory infection she contracted at a U.S. immigration facility. (Courtesy of Arnold and Porter)

A Guatemalan woman whose 19-month-old daughter died after developing a severe respiratory infection while in detention at a Texas immigration facility has filed a $60 million wrongful death claim against the U.S. government that alleges immigration authorities refused to allow her to seek life-saving emergency care for the toddler.

Yazmin Juarez, 20, and her young daughter, Mariee, had been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the U.S. border on March 1 and were held at the South Texas Family Residential Center for three weeks. While in custody, the suit alleges, the infant grew sick but immigration officials refused to let her leave the facility, and instead offered only a few prescription medications that did nothing to improve Mariee’s condition. By the time Juarez was able to get the child to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the little girl’s health was beyond recovery. She died of respiratory failure on May 10, just months before her 2nd birthday.

“Mariee entered Dilley a healthy baby girl and 20 days later was discharged a gravely ill child with a life-threatening respiratory infection,” said Juarez’s pro-bono lawyer Stanton Jones in a statement to Yahoo News. “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 conducting any kind of examination Mariee, or even taking her vital signs.”

Former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Benard Dreyer, said that he reviewed the medical records from the child’s treatment at the detention facility and found clear evidence “that ICE medical staff failed to meet the most basic standard of care and engaged in some troubling practices such as providing pediatric care over a long period of time by non-physicians without supervision.”

“If signs of persistent and severe illness are present in a young child,” he noted, “the standard of care is to seek emergency care.”

In a statement, ICE spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea denied any wrongdoing by the organization, claiming that it was standard practice for detention facilities to have “registered nurses” and “access to 24-hour emergency care.” The South Texas Family Residential Center, where Juarez and her daughter were held, was accused in August of responsibility for the death of another young child after alleged “abuse and neglect.”

Read the full story at Yahoo News.

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