Lawyers representing immigrant families in detention filed a complaint to the Department of Homeland Security on Sunday alleging that ICE has failed to provide adequate medical care to their clients.
The filing comes one day ahead of a key court hearing in a case that will decide whether U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement should release parents with their children from detention.
In the letter to DHS’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, lawyers with clients inside the three family detention centers said leaving parents in the facilities would be denying them proper medical care in the midst of 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 in federal district court in Washington, D.C., on Monday afternoon to argue about the fate of the detained migrant families. The government has argued in the case that parents do not need to be released from detention with their children in order to be spared from catching and spreading COVID-19.
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Late last month, a federal district court in California ruled that children must be released from ICE family detention by July 17.
If Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia decides that parents do not need to be released from the centers, the Department of Homeland Security could decide to release children without their parents, triggering family separation.
The lawyers said they are aware of seven children and 14 adults detained in the centers who have conditions that have been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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 at Dilley, also known as South Texas Family Residential Center, for 138 days. 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.
At Berks, a Haitian asylum seeker has been detained with her 3-year-old for 116 days, 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 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.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the allegations of inadequate medical care in the facilities.
Julia Ainsley is a correspondent covering the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice for the NBC News Investigative Unit.
Jacob Soboroff is a correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC.
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