Things That Matter

The Mother Of A Child Who Died In Immigration Custody Is Suing The Private Prison Company

The mother of a toddler who died right after they were both held at a detention facility, has filed a federal lawsuit in San Antonio and is demanding  $40 million from CoreCivic, the private jail company that operates it. Yazmin Juárez filed the lawsuit this past Wednesday over the death of her 1-year-old daughter Mariee who would develop a respiratory infection at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement family detention center that CoreCivic operates in Dilley, Texas. She would die of a hemorrhage that led to brain and organ failure. Juárez’s lawyers said that Mariee’s fever had reached 104.2 degrees but that medical staff at the facility had failed to treat her.

The 2018 death sparked outrage and added fuel to the fire in what has been a well-publicized story about migrant children deaths at the U.S. southern border.

Juárez says she made the journey from Guatemala and made the decision to cross the border having fled a dangerous situation. Just last month she told her story at a House Oversight subcommittee hearing where explained the terrible situation at the detention facility. Juárez’s story brought forth a range of emotions for many at the hearing as photos of Mariee were shown on television screens. 

“We came to the United States where I hoped to build a better and safer life for us. Instead, I watched my baby girl die slowly and painfully just a few months before her second birthday,” Juárez said in Spanish at the hearing. “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. Unfortunately, that did not happen.”

Credit: @ajplus / Twitter

Many senators and members of Congress weighed in at the time about the Jaurez’s story and called for immediate action on the conditions at many of these detention centers.  “This is unjust and un-America. And it is cruel. No family should be criminalized for seeking safety,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) told reporters at the time of the hearing. 

The lawsuit points out the poor and dangerous conditions in the facility that may have played a role in Mariee’s death.

 Credit: @crismcabrera / Twitter

The focus of the lawsuit is the conditions inside the detention facility that held families and small children in overcrowded quarters. This was credited in creating prime conditions for the spread of sickness and other diseases. 

A spokesperson for CoreCivic told the AP that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is responsible for contracting, staffing and oversight of medical and mental health services at the Texas facility. The company operates the family detention center at Dilley, the largest facility of its kind.

“While we can’t speak to the specifics of pending litigation, what I can tell you is we have deep sympathy for the family and the tragic loss of their child six weeks after leaving the facility,” CoreCivic spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist in a statement. “We care about every person entrusted to us, especially vulnerable populations for which our partners rightfully have very high standards that we work hard to meet each day.”

We can only hope there is immediate justice for Juárez and Mariee.

Credit: @nbcnews / Twitter

In 2018, Juárez would file a wrongful death claim seeking $60 million from the U.S. government because of their failure to help and provide her daughter with proper medical care. According to CoreCivic’s financial statements, the Dilley facility made $171 million in revenue last year.

There is growing hope that justice will be served and the case will be an example going forward that the lives of these migrants matter. Stanton Jones, Juárez’s attorney, told the AP that if CoreCivic will be taking care of children, there are responsibilities that come with that as well.  

“We don’t believe that it’s ever appropriate to jail small children,” Jones said. “At a minimum, if CoreCivic is making huge amounts of money to run a jail for children, there are legal duties that come with that.”

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

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