The Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) — A Guatemalan mother seeking asylum told a House panel Wednesday that she came to the United States seeking safety, but instead watched her infant daughter die slowly and painfully after the baby received shoddy medical care while they were in immigration custody.
As Yazmin Juarez spoke, an image of her brown-eyed baby girl, Mariee, was put up on television screens in the hearing room. The baby had fallen ill with a high fever, vomiting and diarrhea when mother and daughter were detained in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility last year.
“It’s like they tore out a piece of my heart,” Juarez said. “I wanted to have a better life for her and a better future so that she could keep growing, but now we won’t be able to do that and she is gone.”
The emotional hearing before a House Oversight and Reform subcommittee came amid renewed outrage — and an increasingly acrimonious political atmosphere — over treatment of children at the border following media articles and a watchdog report that found squalid conditions for children. Many were crammed for days or weeks into fetid spaces not meant to hold them longer than 72 hours.
Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, the top Republican on the subcommittee, said even the hearing’s title, “Kids in Cages,” seemed solely meant to twist the political knife aimed at the Trump administration, especially given that the chain-link fences were common under the Obama administration.
“We all agree they’re stretched, there is no disagreement in this room,” Roy said of border officials, arguing that rank-and-file officers and agents are being unfairly criticized. “I’ve seen these facilities and I have not seen a cage in the way it has been depicted.”
Another witness, Mike Green of the nonprofit Human Rights First, said the recent news of Border Patrol agents mocking migrants and lawmakers in a secret Facebook group is no surprise given the strain they are under, and the fact they are being asked to do work they are not trained to do.