The immigrant mom whose toddler died after getting sick in ICE custody filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking $40 million in damages from the Arizona city of Eloy.
Eloy had a contract with ICE to nominally oversee the detention facility in Dilley, Texas, where the Juárez family was held after they arrived in the U.S. seeking asylum early last March. The suit claims that 21-month-old Mariee did not receive adequate care there, which resulted in her “wrongful and preventable death” several weeks later, according to the Huffington Post. Doctors said she died of viral pneumonitis.
Arnold & Porter, the firm representing Juárez, filed a notice of claim against Eloy in August.
Eloy employed the private prison company CoreCivic to oversee the facility, even though the U.S. government was paying Eloy to run the operation. It’s one of the largest family detention facilities, with a capacity of 2,400. Eloy pulled out of its agreement with CoreCivic after Juárez filed the notice of claim. CoreCivic has long been accused of abuse and mismanagement for delaying medical care for inmates and operating unsanitary facilities.
Yazmin, 21, and her then-healthy daughter entered the Dilley facility on March 5, 2018, after fleeing violence in Guatemala in hopes of gaining asylum in the U.S. Soon the child developed alarming symptoms, according to the lawsuit: constant diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, and high fever. Mariee was never seen by a medical professional before she left the detention center for New Jersey, where her grandmother currently lives, on March 25, according to her mother. Six weeks later, Mariee was dead.
“If someone at the city of Eloy in 2014 had set up a basic Google Alert related to the Dilley detention facility, they would have received extensive information that the conditions were deeply unsafe for small children,” R. Stanton Jones, a partner at Arnold & Porter, told the Huffington Post. “But Eloy didn’t do any of that.”
This is the second lawsuit Yazmin Juárez has filed since Mariee died. Previously, Yazmin sued the U.S. government for $60 million over the wrongful death of her child.
House Democratic leaders demanded in December that Department of Homeland Security investigate the medical care given Mariee while she was at Dilley, though it’s unclear if any such investigation is underway. At least nine infants under the age of 1 are currently at the same facility, according to lawyers. Immigrant advocates sent a letter to DHS Thursday demanding that ICE release these babies and their mothers immediately, asserting it doesn’t have the proper medical services for this “vulnerable population.”