There's only 1 baby left at the largest family detention center in U.S., ICE says

Last year, 21-month-old Mariee Juárez died of a respiratory infection shortly after leaving the Dilley detention center.
March 5, 2019, 4:20pm
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released 12 of the infants and their mothers detained at a center in Dilley, Texas.

Editor's note 3/5 5:17 p.m. ET: When contacted for comment, an ICE spokesperson said that as of March 5, only one infant remains in custody at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. The spokesperson also said that as of March 1, 17 infants were in custody at the facility — not 16 as CBS reported. The headline has been updated to reflect that information, and the original story follows below with additional comment from ICE.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released 12 infants and their mothers who'd been detained at a center in Dilley, Texas, that advocates say lacks adequate medical care. Four children under the age of 1, however, still remain at the facility, according to an email ICE sent to CBS Monday.

Last week, three immigration advocacy groups sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that urged immigration officials to release at least nine babies and their mothers from the Dilley facility. Some mothers had reported to their lawyers that their babies were losing weight because the facility only had one type of formula and access to the formula was often delayed.

“Every mother I spoke to said that her child was sick in some way," Katy Murdza, a lawyer at the American Immigration Council, one of the groups that sent to letter to DHS, told CBS News. Murdza said each of the babies and mothers were released because someone was "ready to buy them a bus or plane ticket and receive them in their home."

The status of the remaining four babies is unclear, and another infant is still detained at the Karnes County Residential Center in Texas.

"Allegations of unsafe and unsanitary conditions at STFRC are utterly false. As detailed in the June 2017 DHS Inspector General’s report, the family residential centers are ‘clean, well-organized, and efficiently run’ and the agency was found to be ‘addressing the inherent challenges of providing medical care and language services and ensuring the safety of families in detention," an ICE spokesperson told VICE News via email.

The South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley is the largest of three family detention centers in the U.S. for undocumented immigrants. As of August 2018, the facility housed 1,520 mothers and their children, or about 10 percent of the total number of families separated under the Trump administration’s now-defunct “zero tolerance policy,” according to the Associated Press.

In their letter last week, immigration groups urged DHS to “intervene immediately” and accused ICE of failing to “demonstrate its ability to provide regular preventive care which could detect potentially serious complications that arise while in detention.”

“We have grave concerns about the lack of specialized medical care available in Dilley for this vulnerable population,” the letter said. “Concerns include lengthy delays in receiving medical attention.”

Dilley has become a flashpoint for the debate over ICE’s treatment of young children after 21-month-old Mariee Juárez died of a respiratory infection last May about six weeks after leaving the detention center. According to lawsuits filed by her mother, Yazmin Juárez, Mariee grew sick and developed alarming symptoms at the facility: constant diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, and high fever.

Mariee never saw a medical professional, according to her mother, before she left the detention center on March 25. Six weeks later, Mariee was dead.

Cover image: This Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, photo, provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, shows a scene from a tour of South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. (Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via AP)