ICE Faces $60 Million Lawsuit After Guatemalan Toddler Dies Of ‘Inadequate, Neglectful’ Treatment In Custody

Alex WongGetty Images

A Guatemalan toddler died of a respiratory infection after being released from ICE custody, and now the child’s mother is suing the agency for $60 million claiming that her daughter received “inadequate, neglectful” treatment.

Yazmin Juarez illegally crossed the Mexican border into the United States while fleeing an abusive home life, and was detained after she crossed the border. As ABC News reported, Juarez and her daughter, Mariee, were taken to a family detention center in Dilley, Texas, where medical care is provided by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Health Services.

Mariee developed a respiratory infection shortly after entering the detention center, and her mother said the toddler received substandard treatment for the next two weeks. During that time, the little girl saw a doctor only once, medical records showed. Yazmin said she also tried to bring the girl to a medical clinic in the detention center but was told several times to leave and make an appointment the following day.

“Frankly, to me, it was completely irresponsible,” Yazmin told ABC News. “I think they should think about the children. The children are little angels, and this is not their fault.”

The family only stayed at the detention center for 20 days before being released to join Yazmin’s mother in New Jersey. But medical personnel failed to examine Mariee before she was placed on the flight, despite the girl’s worsening medical condition. The girl’s condition grew poorer during the flight, and she was taken to an emergency room hours after the family arrived in New Jersey.

Mariee would never leave the hospital, and six weeks later she died.

As AZCentral.com reported earlier this year, Mariee’s mother filed a legal claim in August saying that staff at the detention center failed to provide adequate care for Mariee Juarez, leading a treatable respiratory infection to turn into pneumonia. The claim said that the girl died after “six agonizing weeks in hospitalization and extensive medical interventions.”

Yazmin Juarez said that after fleeing violence in her native country, she had hoped that her daughter would have a better life in the United States. She never imagined that this could have happened to her daughter.

“After all the ugly things I lived in Guatemala, I had so many dreams for her, so many expectations,” she said.

Yazmin placed the blame squarely on ICE.

“I think it was because they did not care,” she said. “They didn’t care.”