Migrant mom recalls 19-month-old's death in emotional testimony

Daughter died weeks after release from ICE custody

By Priscilla Alvarez, CNN
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Yazmin Juárez on Wednesday, July 10, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Yazmin Juarez, a mother whose toddler died weeks after they were released from Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in 2018, recalled the death of her child in emotional testimony before a House panel Wednesday.

"I watched my baby girl die, slowly, and painfully, just a few months before her second birthday," she said through an interpreter, later beginning to cry recounting her 19-month-old daughter being admitted to the ICU.

Juarez's testimony came during a hearing on the treatment of children at the southern border. Over recent weeks, government and media reports have sparked a national outcry about conditions at border facilities.

Juarez said she fled Guatemala with her daughter to seek asylum in the United States. "We made this journey because we feared for our lives. The trip was dangerous, but I was more afraid of what might happen to us if we stayed. So we came to the United States where I hoped to build a better, safer life for us," she said. "Unfortunately, that did not happen."

Late last year, Juarez filed a wrongful death claim seeking $60 million from the US government. Juarez and her attorney alleged that ICE and those running the facility provided substandard medical care for the toddler after she suffered a respiratory infection while in detention.

Juarez described her time at a family detention center in Dilley, Texas, at Wednesday's hearing. She recalled seeing a number of sick children in detention and recounted when her daughter fell ill.

"First, it was coughing and sneezing, and a lot of nasal secretions -- I brought her to the clinic where I waited in line with ... many other people in a gymnasium to get medical care," she told lawmakers.

"When the physician's assistant saw her, days after, she said that Mariee had a respiratory infection and prescribed Tylenol and honey for her cough," she said.

Over time, her daughter's condition worsened and Juarez repeatedly sought health care for her. As soon as they were released from the facility, Juarez took Mariee to a pediatrician and the emergency room thereafter.

Mariee died last May, six weeks after they were released from the facility in Dilley.

"It is painful for me to relive this experience, and remember that suffering. But, I am here because the world should know what is happening to so many children inside of ICE detention," she said.

House Oversight subcommittee Chairman Jamie Raskin kicked off the hearing criticizing the administration's response to the ongoing influx of migrant arrivals at the southern border.

"The administration's chaotic policy responses have produced a severe humanitarian crisis at the border," the Maryland Democrat said. "The administration has failed to respond in a way that meets the actual humanitarian challenges at the border."

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