Last Wednesday, the grieving mother of a toddler who died shortly after being detained in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody testified before Congress about her experience. Yazmin Juárez told the story of her daughter Mariee, who died at 21 months old after becoming sick in an ICE detention facility.
Juárez and her daughter were migrants from Guatamala who came to the United States seeking asylum. Mariee was healthy during the trip to America, and then developed a viral lung infection after their stay in the detention center. She died from complications shortly thereafter.
Juárez spoke to congress about the conditions in the facility, comparing them to an "icebox" due to the extreme cold. She spoke about being made to sleep on a floor in a cage with about 20 other people. Juárez fled Guatamala as she feared for the safety of herself and her daughter. In her heartbreaking testimony she stated they "came to America, where I hoped to build a better, safer life for us... Instead, I watched my baby girl die — slowly and painfully — a few months before her second birthday."
A couple of days after they were detained they were moved to another facility, the South Texas Family Residential Center. Juárez told congress that when they were transferred, nurses found Mariee to be healthy. Once in the facility, they were assigned a room with 12 other people, including children who were ill. She testified that once Mariee started to show signs of illness, she attempted to get treatment. She was told to use Tylenol and honey, and watched her daughter get progressively more ill. She tried again to get more treatment when her daughter was running a high fever and suffering from diarrhea, but again they were just given a prescription and sent away.
In a heartbreaking chain of events, Juárez tried to seek more medical help for her daughter, help she didn't receive. She told Congress "When I finally managed to have Mariee seen in the clinic again she’d lost two full pounds — almost 8 percent of her body weight — in just 10 days."
She finally was able to see a proper doctor instead of just a physician, however this doctor only gave advice to give superficial treatments for Mariee. Juárez continued fighting to get help, however when she had another appointment lined up she ended up getting transfered out of detention. She flew to see her mother in New Jersey and admitted Mariee to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a lung infection. She spent 6 weeks in hospital, and died on May 10, 2018. Juárez has filed a wrongful death suit against the American government for $60 million dollars.
Juárez concluded her testimony by stating "I’m here today because I don’t want another little angel to suffer like my Mariee. I don’t want other mothers and fathers to lose their children. It can’t be that hard in this great country to make sure that the little children you lock up don’t die from abuse and neglect."