Toddler who died after being held at immigrant detention facility identified
A toddler who died after being held with her mother at a South Texas immigrant family detention facility was identified Monday by a law firm, which said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “failed them inexcusably.”
Mariee Juarez was just 21 months old when she died on May 10 of an intrathorasic hemorrhage, resulting in brain and organ damage, attorneys with the Arnold & Porter law firm said in a statement.
“The full facts show that the medical care Mariee received in ICE detention was woefully inadequate, neglectful, and substandard,” the statement said. “We are working with Yazmin and her family to obtain justice for the failures by ICE and others, and to ensure that no other family suffers such a needless and devastating loss.”
In response, ICE officials said in a statement that the agency “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.”
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Mariee’s mother, 20-year-old Yazmin Juarez, said she fled violence in Guatemala, seeking asylum in the U.S. for her daughter and herself. The two crossed the Rio Grande into South Texas on March 1 where they were quickly detained and requested asylum.
From there, the Juarezes were taken to the Dilley facility on March 5.
Juarez told her attorney that she and Mariee were assigned a cot in an open area, where the air condition was constantly at full speed, the law firm’s statement said.
She added that she was immediately concerned by the number of children around them coughing constantly, and that they appeared to not be receiving treatment, according to the statement.
“Instead of offering safe harbor from the life-threatening violence they were fleeing, ICE detained Yazmin and her baby Mariee in a place with unsafe conditions, neglectful medical care, and inadequate supervision,” the attorney’s statement said.
ICE officials said that comprehensive medical care is provided to all individuals in ICE custody.
“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,” officials said.
ICE said in the statement that it spends “more than $250,000,000 annually on the spectrum of health-care services provided to those in our care.”
Medical staff that checked Mariee and her mother into the Dilley facility said that the toddler had no illnesses or health problems. She was described as a “happy and boisterous,” normal 18-month-old when she arrived there.
Juarez said that within a week of being at the facility, according to the lawyer’s statement, Mariee fell ill with congestion and a cough.
Mariee’s condition worsened over the next several days, the statement said. She had a 104.2 degree fever, along with cough, congestion, diarrhea, and vomiting.
The facility’s medical staff diagnosed Mariee with an ear infection and acute bronchiolitis, the statement said, prescribing her common antibiotics and fever reducers.
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By the time they were released on March 25, Mariee had lost 8 percent of her body weight, had more coughing and was vomiting clear liquid.
She also was exhibiting symptoms that Juarez’s attorneys said should have been indicative of adenovirus, but that her medical records make no mention of it.
The registered nurse who saw Mariee at the facility had noted that “a referral would be made for (Mariee) to see a provider,” but the medical records do not indicate that the registered nurse or anyone else ever made any such referral, the attorney’s office said.
Juarez’s attorney also said that when they were released on March 25, Mariee was seen by a Licensed Vocational Nurse who cleared her to travel without restriction or medical supervision. None of her symptoms were noted, the attorney’s office said.
Juarez told her attorney that she took Mariee to her mother in New Jersey. From there, Mariee was seen by a pediatrician and then taken to an area emergency room, where she was placed on life support.
Over six weeks, Mariee was transferred to two different hospitals for specialized care for progressive respiratory failure.
She died at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia after numerous medical examinations and procedures, according to Juarez’s attorney.
“In the final weeks of her life, Mariee underwent unspeakable pain and suffering, all of which could have been prevented by early and competent medical intervention,” the law firm’s statement said.
The Express-News previously reported that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services launched an abuse and neglect investigation into reports of a child dying after being released from a federal immigration camp in Dilley.
The agency could not release any details of the investigation, including any names of people or victims involved, but confirmed it is ongoing as of Monday.
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