Yazmin Juárez said she fled Guatemala with her young daughter Mariee, hoping to be granted asylum in America. But, after being held in U.S. custody, the 21-month-old toddler died. On Wednesday, the young mother shared her story in front of House lawmakers and the emotional testimony brought New Yorkto tears.
The family was being held in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in Dilley, Texas, when Mariee fell ill. On their first night there, Juárez testified, "We spent a very cold night ... sleeping on concrete." She recalled the food wasn't healthy — "not appropriate" for a child and it "went through many hands" and this, she said, exposed Mariee to "many more germs" that could make her sick.
Although Juárez requested medical care for her daughter and received medication, her daughter's health failed. Six weeks after Juárez and her daughter were discharged from the ICE facility, Mariee died.
The young mother told her story in Spanish and it was interpreted through a translator. "To move forward without my little girl, it's like they tore out a piece of my heart, like they tore out my soul," said the translator. "I am suffering every day. It is difficult to get up and move forward without her. I wanted to have a good life for her and a better future and work hard, so that she could keep growing the way that she was. But now I won't be able to do that, because she's gone."
A camera capturing the hearing panned to the lawmakers as Juárez's translator was speaking. Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin, the chair of the subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, was visibly distraught, rubbing his face and putting his hand over his mouth. Texas Republican Chip Roy also appeared upset by the story.
As the camera panned to freshman Democrat Ocasio-Cortez, she was tearing up while the translator spoke. For more than 35 seconds, the lawmaker cried and wiped her eyes with a tissue.
Ocasio-Cortez has been a longtime critic of the Trump administration's strict immigration policies and recently visited a in El Paso, Texas. She described the conditions in the facility as "horrible" and said she witnessed "some of the most inhumane behavior."
During an interview with The New Yorker Radio Hour's David Remnick, she indicated her support of abolishing ICE, a common rallying cry among House Democrats. The New York native even suggested dissolving the Department of Homeland Security in the interview.
have died in U.S. custody — or shortly after being released — under President Trump's tenure. Juárez is alleging that ICE failed to provide her daughter with adequate medical care.