Things That Matter

A Migrant Mother Details The Death of Her Daughter After ICE Detention In Emotional Testimony

Yazmin Juárez, a migrant woman who said she was fleeing an abusive situation at home in Guatemala, gave an emotional testimony in front of Congress on July 10. At a congressional hearing Wednesday, she spoke about the neglect and inhumane conditions that she and her 19-month-old daughter experienced at a detention facility which resulted in the death of her daughter weeks after being released from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

In a tearful testimony, Juárez spoke about the hopes and dreams she’d had for her daughter and wanted to pursue for her by coming to the U.S.

“We came to the United States, where I hoped to build a better and safer life for my daughter, Mariee. Sadly, I witnessed my daughter die. Slowly and very painfully,” Juárez said during the hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. “A couple of months before her second birthday, she died.”  

The hearing comes as a response from the House committee looking into the treatment of migrant children at detention facilities on the U.S. border.

According to The Guardian, Juárez went on to say that it pained her to relive those moments as she testified. Still, the mother felt the need to do so, in order to let the rest of the world know the truth behind what’s happening in these cages and detention facilities where folks are being held. She and her daughter were being held at a family detention center in Dilley, Texas, in 2018. 

Juárez testified said her daughter began showing symptoms after entering the facility. The Guardian reports that her daughter “Mariee had a 104F fever and suffered from cough, congestion, diarrhea, and vomiting a week after entering Dilley.”

However, these symptoms were not mentioned by medical staff on discharge forms. And her daughter’s condition only worsened after their release from the detention center. Her mother recalled how she spent six weeks in hospitals before her condition worsened due to a collapsed lung from a respiratory infection last May. 

Juárez is now filing a wrongful death suit and seeking $60M from the federal government. 

After Juárez’s emotional hearing, she also received a moving and important response from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez –– who has also been very vocal and open about how she believes the U.S. should rid itself of the entire Department of Homeland Security. “I feel like we are, at a very, it’s a very qualified and supported position, at least in terms of evidence, and in terms of being able to make the argument that we never should have created DHS in the early 2000s,” AOC said in an interview, according to CBS News

AOC was visibly moved by Juárez’s testimony about the wrongful death of her daughter Mariee.

“I want to start with a very important question,” AOC started her remarks. “First, United States law requires that children are kept in safe and sanitary conditions. You and your baby were here in detention conditions. In your opinion, were these conditions safe and sanitary?” To which Juárez ultimately answered, “no.” 

Juárez described the conditions she was held in CBP custody as “very cold” and they were kept in “a cage” and “forced to sleep on a concrete floor.”

AOC also asked Juárez if she had witnessed a culture of cruelty within detention facilities. Juárez told AOC that while in custody and while she was in “detention in the cages” she spoke to immigration and ICE officials over the phone to discuss why she was seeking asylum in the U.S. 

“I came [to the U.S.] to provide a better future for my daughter,” she says she told ICE. “But they didn’t let us speak, and [they] told me, in these words, ‘Do you know that this country is for Americans, our president is Donald Trump, and we can take your daughter away from you and lock you up in prison.'” 

AOC responded to Juárez –– but addressed the oversight committee chair, Elijah Cummings –– “What is being pointed to here is a culture of cruelty. To have a CBP officer tell a migrant woman escaping unspeakable horrors in her home country and tell them this country is for Americans and to threaten to separate her from her daughter, to threaten a human rights violation is extraordinarily concerning, and at a bare minimum grounds for serious investigation by this committee and other entities.” 

Wednesday’s hearing, titled “Kids in Cages: Inhumane Treatment at the Border,” comes during at a time of heightened criticism of the Trump administration and their treatment of migrant families at the border. 

The testimony comes as government and media reports of inhumane conditions at border detention facilities have sparked an outcry all over social media and beyond. On July 9, according to NBC News, a harrowing report of the treatment of migrant children at the hands of U.S. border agents was obtained, showing allegations of sexual assault and retaliation according to dozens of accounts by children held in an Arizona detention center. 

President Trump, however, has pushed back against these reports saying they are “unsubstantiated.”

The oversight committee chair present at Juárez’s testimony called the treatment of migrant children at facilities on the border “government-sponsored child abuse.” 

Mariee has been one of seven children to die while in ICE custody or shortly after being released. 

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