A Guatemalan woman is suing the U.S. government over the death of her 19-month old daughter, who died six weeks after being released from an immigration detention center.
CNN reports that Yazmin Juarez was locked up alongside her young daughter, Marlee, until May of this year. The two spent twenty days in custody before being released from a Dilley, TX immigration facility.
Juarez and her attorney claim that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, along with facility staffers, provided ‘substandard’ medical care for the toddler. Marlee, writes CNN, suffered from a respiratory infection in custody.
The infection, left largely untreated, claimed the young girl’s life.
“The US government had a duty to provide this little girl with safe, sanitary living conditions and proper medical care but they failed to do that resulting in tragic consequences,” attorney R. Stanton Jones said in a statement.
“Marlee entered Dilley a healthy baby girl and 20 days later was discharged a gravely ill child with a life-threatening respiratory infection,” Jones said. “Marlee died just months before her 2nd birthday because ICE and others charged with her medical care neglected to provide the most basic standard of care as her condition rapidly deteriorated and her mother Yazmin pleaded for help.”
According to CNN, Yazmin Juarez and Marlee were detained by ICE officials in March. They’d come to the United States from Guatemala, crossing the Rio Grande before being taken into federal custody.
Six days after being registered at the government-run South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX, Juarez sought medical attention for her daughter. Help wasn’t forthcoming—Marlee was prescribed pills that did little to improve her condition.
Immediately after being released, Juarez and Marlee flew to New Jersey, where Yazmin’s mother lives. She took the 19-month old girl to a hospital the next day, where she was admitted for respiratory failure.
Hospitalized for six weeks, Marlee died at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on May 10th.
“After it became clear that Marlee was gravely ill, ICE simply discharged mother and daughter,” Jones said. “Yazmin immediately sought medical care for her baby, but it was too late.”
CNN says that Juarez’s suit targets ‘various government agencies,’ among them the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Seeking comment from several of the defendants, CNN claims Customs and Border Patrol declined to comment, citing pending litigation.
A spokesperson for ICE didn’t seem to specifically address Juarez’s claims, but maintained the Dilley facility has adequate healthcare facilities and staff.
“ICE is committed to ensuring the welfare of all those in the agency’s custody, including providing access to necessary and appropriate medical care,” Jennifer Elzea said. “[…] 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.”
Juarez is seeking $60 million from the U.S. government. In August, her attorney also filed a claim against the city of Eloy, AZ, which is the main contractor for the Dilley facility. That claim, writes CNN, seeks $40 million in damages for wrongful death.