Immigrant parents denied adequate medical care, should be released with their children, lawyers say

A complaint filed with DHS comes a day before a key court hearing in a case that will decide whether ICE should release parents from detention with their children.

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By Julia Ainsley and Jacob Soboroff

Lawyers representing immigrant families in detention filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security on Sunday alleging that ICE has failed to provide adequate medical care for their clients.

A federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments Monday in a case that could decide whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement should release parents from detention with their children.

Late last month, a federal district court in California ruled that children must be released from ICE family detention by July 17. In the letter to DHS' Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, lawyers with clients in the three family detention centers — two in Texas and one in Pennsylvania — said leaving parents in the facilities would deny them proper medical care in a pandemic.

"From the beginning, medical care at Dilley, Karnes and Berks has been substandard at best, and negligent at worst," said lawyers from Proyecto Dilley, RAICES, ALDEA-The People's Justice Center and CLINIC.

They and lawyers representing the Trump administration will appear Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to argue the fate of the detained migrant families. The government has argued that it is not required to release parents from detention with their children to spare them from catching and spreading COVID-19.

If District Judge James Boasberg decides that parents do not have to be released, Homeland Security could decide to release children without their parents, triggering family separations.

The lawyers said they are aware of seven children and 14 adults detained in the centers who have conditions that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified as risk factors for COVID-19, such as high blood pressure, chronic respiratory disease, pregnancy and kidney disease.

The letter cited a 32-year-old mother who has been detained for 138 days at the South Texas Family Residential Center, known as Dilley. The woman, who is not named, survived "repeated incidents of blunt trauma" to her head and developed a "mass on the back of her head."

"An independent medical expert who reviewed M.P.A.'s medical records determined that additional testing is urgently needed to determine whether her tumor is cancerous," the letter said.

Her son is also sick, according to the lawyers, with diarrhea, fever, a rash and a history of a heart murmur.

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A Haitian asylum-seeker has been detained with her 3-year-old child for 116 days at the Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania, where, the lawyers allege, ICE and its contractors have failed to facilitate an appointment with a specialist to examine her for pain and a lump in her breast.

The lawyers also alleged that at the Karnes County Residential Facility in Texas, children are kept in medical isolation when their mothers are receiving medical care even when their fathers are also being detained at the facility.

In a statement, ICE said it could not comment "due to ongoing litigation."

"However," said the statement, "lack of comment should not be construed as agreement with or stipulation to any of the allegations. As part of the Department of Homeland Security’s homeland security mission, our trained law enforcement professionals adhere to the Department’s mission and values, and uphold our laws while continuing to provide the nation with safety and security."