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Mother Sues for $60M After Child Died in ICE Custody

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. | Last updated on

There's nothing more tragic than the death of a child, but this death has an added element of tragedy.

Two weeks after entering an ICE facility, and immigrant child died. The child's mother is now suing for $60 million.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Yazmin Juarez's healthy 19 month old daughter, Mariee, became ill with a respitory infection within days of being detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility located in Dilley, Texas, near the Rio Grande border.

Though Juarez tried repeatedly to get medical care for her daughter, the care she received was allegedly substandard, including medication that didn't improve Mariee's condition. According to Juarez, about two weeks later, once it appeared Mariee wouldn't recover, she and Mariee were released. They went to New Jersey to join Juarez's mother.

The next day, they sought medical care for Mariee, but it was too late. The toddler was admitted to the hospital, where she died six weeks later, at the young age of 20 months. Now Juarez has filed a wrongful death claim against the U.S. government for $60 million.

Substandard Medical Care Fell Short of Government's Duty, Plaintiff Claims

According to Juarez's attorney, R. Stanton Jones, "the U.S. 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." According to Jones, Yazmin Juarez and Mariee were held at a Customs and Border Protection processing center in McAllen, Texas, for three or four days, sleeping on the floor of a locked cage with at least 25 other people, prior to being transferred to Dilley.

Once in Dilley, they were housed in a single room with ten other people, including five mothers that each had one child. Many of these children were already sick. When Mariee became gravely ill, her medical care was tossed around between multiple nurses and one physician. The child was given four different diagnoses, and seven medications, including one not recommended for children under two.

Detention Center Deaths on the Rise

In 2017, twelve immigrants died in detention centers, according to ICE, the most since 2009. This figure doesn't include the number of detainees who later died from medical conditions commencing while detained. Activists believe immigration officials and detention center operators provide delayed and otherwise substandard medical care and ignore detainee's health complaints. Civil rights proponents are hoping that suits like this, filed against the Department of Homeland Security, ICE, and the Department of Health and Human Services, will help to change things. This suit is in addition to the notice of claim Jones filed against the city of Eloy, Arizona, which was the prime contractor for the South Texas Family Residential Center facility. That claim sought $40 million for Mariee's wrongful death.

If you or someone you love has experienced severe illness, or death, from being detained in an ICE facility, contact a local civil rights attorney. There are duties of care that these facilities must offer all people, regardless of immigration status. If you believe this duty may not have been met, call a civil rights attorney to learn if you have a legal right to damages.

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