WASHINGTON (CN) – Yazmin Juarez’s 19-month-old daughter died after getting sick following her stay at an unsanitary immigration detention center in Texas. She told lawmakers her story Wednesday to shed light on the human toll behind the Trump administration’s immigration policy, leaving few dry eyes in the room.
Yazmin and her daughter, Mariee, made the trek from Guatemala to the United States last year. She was fleeing an abusive domestic situation, a scenario that she could not even describe, for her own protection, during a House Oversight subcommittee hearing on inhumane treatment of children at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I was scared. But I made the journey because I feared for her life,” Juarez said in Spanish before a translator relayed the message to a silent group of lawmakers. “I was more scared of what would happen if we stayed. I wanted a new life for my family. Instead I watched my baby girl die slowly and painfully.”
Though sharing her experience brought tears to her eyes and often caused her voice to crack, Juarez steadfastly described under oath the horrors she witnessed while she was held at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Dilley, Texas.
There was no effort to separate the sick from the healthy there, she said. Pregnant women and children were forced to sleep on hard concrete with rough “grey things.” Those things were blankets but Juarez said she would not consider them a blanket by any standard.
Mariee was healthy for the arduous trip to the U.S. and did not become ill until after their 20-day ICE detention. By day 10, the girl had lost 8% of her body weight. She was vomiting constantly, including in front of doctors who were supposed to care for her.
Given only Pedialyte and Vicks VapoRub, Mariee’s condition worsened fast. She wasn’t eating or sleeping. She was weak.
“I didn’t learn until after she died, you are not supposed to give children under 2 Vicks because it can cause respiratory problems,” Juarez testified.
Agents would turn Juarez away as she asked for a specialist, at one point even offering to be handcuffed while they took her and her daughter for care. When they finally got out of the facility, they went to an emergency room where it was discovered that Mariee had a viral lung infection.
It was six weeks of “poking and prodding,” Juarez said, as doctors at a children’s hospital fought to bring Mariee back from the edge of death.
“My little girl suffered horrible pain. I couldn’t even hold her to console her. As a mother, I wish I could have taken her place,” Juarez said in tears.
Lawmakers in the House are holding multiple hearings this week to review a steadily increasing flow of allegations that ICE and Customs and Border Protection facilities are overflowing not just with immigrants, but with human and civil rights abuses.
Representative Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who chairs the House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, expressed his frustration with those conditions Wednesday.
“The human rights catastrophes at the border are not improving the refugee crisis but are worsening it. People flee because of gang violence, government dysfunction, police corruption, religious persecution, rape, gender violence, droughts and floods and this has driven up the number of families headed to our border,” Raskin said.