Mom of tot who died after being held in detention center files $40 million claim
Lawyers for the mother of a Guatemalan toddler who died after the pair were released from a South Texas immigrant detention center have filed the first civil claim over the matter, seeking $40 million for alleged wrongful death.
The claim was filed Tuesday against an Arizona town that holds a contract with the federal government to operate the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, which is about 75 miles south of San Antonio.
The 2,400-bed facility is actually operated for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement by Nashville-based CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America, via a contract that ICE has had with Eloy, Arizona, for another immigration detention facility there since about 2006. A modification to the contract in 2014 led to the opening of the Dilley center.
Tuesday’s claim was filed by Washington, D.C.-based Arnold & Porter on behalf of the child’s mother, Yazmin Juarez, and is the first of several claims expected against entities involved in the operation and management of the Dilley facility.
Tuesday’s claim was sent to the City of Eloy, Arizona, which serves as the federal government’s prime contractor for the operation of the Dilley facility, where Mariee Juarez and her mother were held for 20 days in March.
“Those responsible for providing safe, sanitary conditions and proper medical care failed this little girl, and it caused her to die a painful death,” said lawyer R. Stanton Jones, a partner at Arnold & Porter. “Mariee Juarez entered Dilley a healthy baby girl and 20 days later was discharged a gravely ill child with a life-threatening respiratory infection. Mariee died just months before her second birthday because ICE, the City of Eloy 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.”
Juarez’s legal team, which is handling the case on a pro bono basis, intends to also pursue litigation against ICE and the private jail company for Mariee’s death.
The child died six weeks after she and her mother were discharged from Dilley, the multi-page claim said. The firm said Mariee spent those six seeks in New Jersey and Philadelphia hospitals where doctors and specialists tried, to no avail, to save the baby whose lungs had collapsed from a respiratory infection.
Texas child welfare officials opened an investigation, which remains pending.
The firm on Monday, for the first time, identified the child and her mother and provided a timeline stating that the child was healthy when she arrived at Dilley but her health deteriorated after contacting an illness, possibly from another sick child inside the facility.
The firm said that within a week of entering Dilley, Mariee was running a 104-degree fever, suffering from a cough, congestion, diarrhea, and vomiting. They claim that the medical staff who discharged her weeks later noted none of those conditions and cleared her for travel without even seeing Mariee, conducting any kind of examination or taking her vitals, according to the multi-page suit.
“After reviewing the medical records from Mariee’s treatment at the Dilley detention facility, it is clear 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,” said Dr. Bernard Dreyer, the former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a pediatrician at New York University Langone Health, who looked at the case for the firm. “If signs of persistent and severe illness are present in a young child, the standard of care is to seek emergency care. 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. These are just a few of the alarming examples of how ICE medical staff failed to provide proper medical treatment to this little girl.”
ICE normally does not comment on pending litigation. In a statement Monday, the agency 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,” the statement said.
ICE also that it spends “more than $250,000,000 annually on the spectrum of health-care services provided to those in our care.”
Guillermo Contreras covers federal court and immigration news in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | email@example.com | Twitter: @gmaninfedland