The U.S. government is being sued for US$60 million by a Guatemalan migrant mother whose toddler died after a contracting a respiratory infection while being held at a detention center in Texas.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Dilley is “unsafe and unsanitary,” said Yasmin Juarez, 21. She claims her 20-month-old daughter, Mariee, received “inadequate, substandard medical care” at the facility.
“Mariee entered Dilley a healthy baby girl and 20 days later was discharged a gravely ill child with a life-threatening respiratory infection," attorney R. Stanton Jones in a statement.
"Mariee died just months before her second 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."
The pair were detained by immigration officers in March and held for three weeks. The mother told reporters that several children in the facility were sick and, within a week, her daughter was coughing.
Juarez was given medication but it did nothing to lower her daughter’s escalating temperature, which rose to 104.2 and was accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea and an eight percent loss of body weight.
Mother and daughter were later released and allowed to reunite with relatives in New Jersey. On their arrival, the toddler was immediately admitted to hospital for respiratory failure. Six weeks later, she died.
Jones said: “After it became clear that Mariee was gravely ill, ICE simply discharged mother and daughter. Yazmin immediately sought medical care for her baby, but it was too late.
"Having made the decision to jail small children, the U.S. government is responsible to provide living conditions that are safe, sanitary and appropriate... and proper medical care, but they failed to do that, resulting in tragic consequences."
Claims have been filed against the Department of Homeland Security and ICE, among others.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) refused to comment on the case while ICE officials defended their medical care, CNN reports.