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Border & Immigration

ICE Sued For Inadequate Medical Care At South Texas Detention Center

Origami cranes hang on a fence outside the South Texas family detention center in Dilley, Texas March 30, 2019.
File Photo | Norma Martinez | Texas Public Radio
Origami cranes hang on a fence outside the South Texas family detention center in Dilley, Texas March 30, 2019.

Attorneys for a Guatemalan woman detained at a detention center in Dilley, Texas, are in court Monday to ask a judge to order U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement to provide further medical care for her 5-year-old son.

According to Dr. Amy Cohen, the 5-year-old Guatemalan boy is suffering from symptoms caused by a head injury he received prior to being detained.

“He’s ill and withdrawn and chronically complains of pain,” said Cohen, who has spoken with the boy’s mother and aunt and reviewed his medical records. Cohen is the executive director of Every Last One, an asylum advocacy group, and a licensed physician specializing in child psychiatry.

Court declarations written by Cohen and the child’s mother state that the 5-year-old fractured his skull in an accidental fall out of a shopping cart in December. He missed appointments with a pediatric neurologist and a pediatric neurosurgeon when his family was detained in Los Angeles in January.

The lawsuit filed in California on Friday seeks an order from the court to force ICE to allow the boy to be examined by a pediatric neurologist and a pediatric neurosurgeon. It also seeks to prevent the family’s immediate deportation.

Texas Public Radio is not identifying the family due to concerns they might be in danger if they return to Guatemala.

A spokesperson for ICE declined to comment on the lawsuit Saturday, but defended the care the 5-year-old received earlier in the week.

In an emailed statement, ICE officials said the child was taken to a San Antonio hospital on Feb. 4, where “a hospital physician advised that the child’s radiology report showed a normal MRI and no sign” of bleeding in the brain.

However, Cohen said the hospital did not have the 5-year-old’s previous medical records and did not take him to see a specialist.

Since entering the family detention center in Dilley, Cohen said he’s started wetting his bed and thrashing in his sleep, “Which raises concerns for me that he was having a seizure disorder.”

Cohen, who specializes in child psychiatry, said she described the boy’s symptoms and injury to two pediatric neurosurgeons, who said his symptoms were consistent with his injury and required a full evaluation by a specialist.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille.