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May 25, 2019

Guatemalan mom whose toddler died weeks after being released from ICE custody sues U.S. for $60M

November 29, 2018
Yazmin Juarez, 20, and her daughter, Mariee, spent three weeks at the South Texas Family Residential Center, in Dilley, after arriving from Guatemala on March 1. (Courtesy of Arnold & Porter)

Six weeks after a 19-month-old girl and her mother were released from an immigration detention center in May, the toddler died. Her mother blames ICE.

Yazmin Juarez, 20, and her daughter, Mariee, spent three weeks at the South Texas Family Residential Center, in Dilley, after arriving from Guatemala on March 1.

Within 10 days of their arrival stateside, and five days at the facility, Mariee was running a 104.2 degree fever, had diarrhea, a cough and congestion. She was also surrounded by other sick children, according to Juarez’s lawyer, R. Stanton Jones.

By March 15, Mariee had lost two pounds since arriving at the facility and was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection. Her condition continued deteriorating and a doctor’s appointment was finally booked for March 24.

That meeting never happened, and a day later, Juarez and Mariee were released from the detention facility and flown to New Jersey.

On March 26, Mariee was hospitalized and spent the next six weeks at various hospitals, eventually being placed on a ventilator and on life support.

She died on May 10.

Now, her mother is suing the U.S. government for negligence, gross negligence and recklessness.

“Mariee’s death was altogether foreseeable,” Jones wrote in the filing. “People who have spent time at Dilley have long believed that the death of a child was inevitable, just a mere matter of time.”

Jones also quoted the former president of the American Academy of Pediatricts, who said that “ICE medical staff failed to meet the most standard of care and engaged in some troubling practices.”

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

“ICE staff did not seek emergency care for Mariee, nor did they arrange for intravenous antibiotics when Mariee was unable to keep oral antibiotics down.”

Jones previously filed a wrongful death claim against the city of Eloy, Arizona, the prime contractor in operating the Dilley, Texas, facility, for $40 million.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement press secretary Jennifer Elzea said in a statement that “ICE takes very seriously the health, safety and welfare of those in our care.”

“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,” she 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. Pursuant to our commitment to the welfare of those in the agency’s custody, ICE spends more than $250M annually on the spectrum of healthcare services provided to those in our care. “

She also cited a June 2017 Department of Homeland Security Inspector General’s report that said the family residential centers are “clean, well-organized, and efficiently run” and that the agency was “addressing the inherent challenges of providing medical care and language services and ensuring the safety of families in detention.”

Customs and Border Protection did not immediately return a request for comment.

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