Mother Whose Toddler Died After Leaving ICE Custody Tells Harrowing Story To Congress

“We came to the United States, where I hoped to build a better life,” said the 21-year-old mother, who fled violence in Guatemala in early 2018. “Instead, I watched my baby girl die slowly and painfully just a few months before her second birthday.”

Throughout her translated testimony, she choked up with tears recounting how ICE and medical officials continually endangered her daughter’s life, in some cases denying the toddler the care she needed or lying about her condition. Multiple House members wiped tears from their eyes as Juárez told her story and said she was testifying in hopes of preventing other children from dying.

Democrats convened the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to discuss the horrific conditions in migrant detention facilities. This issue has been in the national spotlight amid reports that U.S. Border Patrol stations are overcrowded, unsanitary and unsafe for children who are often forced to sleep on concrete floors.

There have been flu outbreaks in multiple border facilities, and medical experts say the government is failing to provide children with adequate care and safe settings to recover in. Five children have died in Border Patrol custody since December, a few after being diagnosed with illnesses such as the flu or respiratory infections that doctors have told HuffPost were not properly treated. Lawyers who recently visited a Texas border facility told HuffPost they had to ensure that four severely ill toddlers were taken immediately to a hospital.

Juárez’s daughter was healthy after crossing the border, she told the subcommittee. But then she and her child were detained for a few days in a cold Border Patrol facility, where they were packed in a cage with 30 others and slept on a concrete floor. The family was then transferred in March 2018 to an ICE family detention center in Dilley, Texas, where Juárez said they were put in a room with other mothers and their sick children.

Mariee became sick within a week, Juárez said. At first, the toddler was coughing and sneezing, and a doctor diagnosed her with a respiratory infection and prescribed Tylenol. But the next day, her symptoms quickly escalated to include a fever, diarrhea and vomiting.

“She wouldn’t eat. Her little body felt so hot, and she was weak,” she told the panel of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

By Angelina Chapin for HUFFINGTON POST
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