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Congressman Joaquin Castro

Representing the 20th District of Texas

Castro, Cummings, Thompson, Nadler Ask DHS OIG to Investigate Toddler Death Shortly After Release From a Texas Detention Center

Dec 7, 2018
Press Release
Members Urge Review of ICE Medical Care Given to Toddler Who Died Days After Being Released From the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas

WASHINGTON—Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Chairman Elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus; Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (MD-07), Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee; Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02), Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Committee; and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, today called on the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to investigate the death of Mariee Juarez days after leaving DHS custody earlier this year. In a letter to Acting Inspector General John Kelly, the Members specifically asked the OIG to conduct a review into the medical care provided by ICE to 18-month-old Mariee and whether any of their actions contributed to her death. 

In July, Rep. Castro wrote a letter to DHS Secretary Nielsen asking whether any children had died or been seriously harmed while in government care. Secretary Nielsen told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, during an in-person meeting days later, that none had died or been seriously harmed to her knowledge. To follow up again in September, Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus wrote DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen saying Mariee’s illness qualified as a serious injury and should have been reported to members of Congress, and to request that she direct the DHS OIG to open an investigation into this case. Specifically, the members wanted to know if ICE could improve the level of care provided to all detainees. Secretary Nielsen failed to respond to this letter, and instead had ICE Deputy Director Ronald Vitiello reply and direct members to reach out directly to DHS OIG.

“The death of a child is a serious occurrence and it is critical that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General factually determine if DHS was medically negligent and whether this negligence led to Mariee’s death,” the Members wrote.

The Members continued: “We believe that an investigation from your office will play a critical and complimentary role in this process and help Mariee’s family get the answers they deserve.  It will also help prevent future incidents and elevate the standard of care provided to all individuals in government custody.”

Full text of the letter follows and can be found here.

December 7, 2018

The Honorable John V. Kelly
Office of the Inspector General/MAIL STOP 0305
Department of Homeland Security
245 Murray Lane SW
Washington, D.C. 20528-0305

Dear Acting Inspector General Kelly:

We respectfully request that your office conduct a review into the medical care provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Health Service Corps to Mariee Juarez, an 18-month old toddler that tragically died soon after being released from the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.  The death of a child is a serious occurrence and it is critical that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General factually determine if DHS was medically negligent and whether this negligence led to Mariee’s death.  

While in DHS custody, Mariee first became ill with a cold and developed a high fever.  After a prolonged illness and infection, Mariee passed away on May 10th from pneumonitis shortly after her release from DHS care.  Mariee’s premature death has led the state of Texas to open two investigations.  The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission are examining whether abuse or neglect played a factor in Mariee’s death.

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus wrote to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in September requesting that she direct your office to open an investigation into Mariee’s treatment in custody and whether, overall, ICE can improve the level of care provided to all detainees. 

Secretary Nielsen declined to respond to the letter.  Instead, ICE Deputy Director Ronald Vitiello replied and directed the members of Congress to reach out to your office directly.

We believe that an investigation from your office will play a critical and complimentary role in this process and help Mariee’s family get the answers they deserve.  It will also help prevent future incidents and elevate the standard of care provided to all individuals in government custody.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.  We look forward to your affirmative response. 

Sincerely,

Joaquin Castro
Chairman Elect
Congressional Hispanic Caucus

Elijah E. Cummings
Ranking Member
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

Bennie G. Thompson
Ranking Member
House Committee on Homeland Security

Jerrold Nadler
Ranking Member
House Committee on the Judiciary 

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