When 20-year-old Yazmin Juárez and her toddler, Mariee, crossed the border in March, Mariee was healthy, according to her mother. By May, she had died from what Juárez is claiming was a respiratory infection her daughter developed after sharing a room with other mothers and children at a detention center in Dilley, Tex. The mother and daughter had come from Guatemala; Juárez passed an initial asylum interview and is awaiting an immigration court hearing
On Tuesday, Juárez filed a notice of claim — a precursor to a possible lawsuit — seeking $40 million in damages from the city of Eloy, Ariz., which administers the federal contract for the South Texas Family Residential Center from more than 900 miles away. She also plans to file a claim against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and to sue CoreCivic, the private contractor that runs the 2,400-bed detention center, said Stanton Jones, a D.C.-based lawyer for Arnold & Porter, which is handling the case pro bono.
Officials at Eloy and ICE had no immediate comment on the claim letter. Asked about reports of the girl’s death, ICE said in a statement that the agency “takes very seriously the health, safety and welfare of those in our care . . . including providing access to necessary and appropriate medical care.”
The Dilley center opened in 2014 to handle a surge of migrant families from Central America seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. To speed the process, the Obama administration modified an existing immigration-detention contract with Eloy.
• After sharing a room with other families, some of whom were sick, at the detention center, Mariee developed a respiratory infection. Her fever spiked to 104.2 degrees, and she vomited, suffered diarrhea and lost weight, the letter said.
• Juárez said she brought her daughter — who would have turned 2 this month — to the center’s health clinic multiple times. There were long waits, the letter said, and they were twice turned away.
• The clinic prescribed a camphor balm that is not advised for the girl’s age, because it could worsen her breathing, the letter said.
• On March 23, a nurse said she would refer Mariee to a physician, according to the letter, but two days later a licensed vocational nurse who never examined the girl cleared her for release. After flying to New Jersey to join relatives. Juárez took her daughter to a pediatrician. She was admitted to the emergency room needing oxygen that night.
• Over the next six weeks, Mariee spent time in two hospitals. She died May 10 after “a catastrophic intrathoracic hemorrhage” led to brain and organ damage, the letter said. The cause of death was bronchiectasis, pulmonitis and pneumothorax, or collapsed lung.