Yazmin Juárez, the mom whose toddler died after weeks in federal immigration custody, has filed a $40 million lawsuit against the private prison profiteer that operates the Texas immigration detention facility where the family was jailed—and where 19-month-old Mariee became fatally ill.
“CoreCivic operates the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement family detention center at Dilley, Texas, the largest facility of its kind,” the AP reported. “Juárez’s lawyers say CoreCivic allowed poor conditions to fester at the 2,400-bed facility.” In heartbreaking testimony to Congress earlier this month, Juárez described “no effort” by staffers to separate sick kids from the healthy. Mariee was cleared as healthy when they arrived, but then became sick too.
“I’d wait in line early in the morning when the clinic opened with dozens of other mothers with their sick children,” she said. “Twice I was turned away and told to come back another day. When I finally managed to have Mariee seen in the clinic again she’d lost 2 full pounds—almost 8 percent of her body weight—in just 10 days.”
The baby’s condition only became worse, even with some follow-up care, but ICE and CoreCivic appeared to make no effort to have the child hospitalized, instead washing their hands of the family by releasing them on the same day that Yazmin was scheduled to take Mariee, who had become “limp and hot,” to a doctor. In fact, Yazmin later found out that “her medical records from Dilley said she had no medical restrictions and was ‘medically cleared.’”
Mariee died in a hospital, six weeks after they were released from the South Texas Family Residential Center, a name that almost passes as quaint considering the misery inside. This is the same kind of facility that current ICE Director Matthew Albence once compared to a summer camp, but this is no place for children or their families. Trump officials, including Albence, admitted that themselves by refusing to say whether they’d send their own kids there.
Yazmin already has other ongoing litigation against ICE over Mariee’s death, and both ICE and CoreCivic should have to pay up. Neither entity is a stranger to recent litigation from others, with the latter sued this past February by a woman “alleging that guards at Hutto had forced her and other detainees to work for $1 or $2 a day; if they refused, they were subject to punishments including solitary confinement."
But it’s also a fact that no amount of money in the world can replace what Yazmin wants most: her baby. In closing her testimony to Congress, Yazmin said she chose to share her story “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.”