The American Immigration Lawyers Association said Wednesday that a migrant toddler died shortly after being released from an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Dilley, Tex.
“AILA has learned that a toddler died soon after release from the Dilley South Texas Family Residential Center,” Gregory Z. Chen, director of government relations for the 15,000-member association, said in a statement. “We do not have information on the cause of death or information that confirms a connection between medical treatment at STFRC and this death.”
Chen did not name the child or say when the alleged death occurred, and The Washington Post was unable to independently verify the death.
ICE said Wednesday that it could not investigate the situation without the child’s name or other information. However the agency made clear that no child died while in its care.
“Reports that a child died in ICE custody at Dilley are false,” the agency tweeted
Chen said the association’s lawyers have “seen ongoing inadequacies in the standard of care provided to mothers and children in Dilley, and have filed complaints with the government raising these concerns.”
Word that a child may have died emerged on social media late Tuesday and spread quickly on the Internet, igniting fresh outrage weeks after the Trump administration halted its controversial practice of separating parents and children after they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.
Hundreds of separated families have been reunited in recent days at Dilley and at least one other ICE family detention center. Those centers also house families taken into custody at the border but not separated by the government. Because there is so little information available about the child who reportedly died, it is impossible to say whether that child was among the minors who had been separated.
“Without a name or more specific information, we are unable to research this allegation,” ICE spokeswoman Danielle Bennett said in a statement. “That doesn’t make the allegation true, just impossible to refute.”
Dilley is the largest of ICE’s three family detention centers, with a capacity of about 2,400 people. It is located about an hour southwest of San Antonio.
A June 2017 report by the Homeland Security inspector general said the family detention centers are “clean, well-organized, and efficiently run.” The report also found that the agency was working to address “the inherent challenges of providing medical care and language services” in detention.
A Houston immigration lawyer, Mana Yegani, tweeted late Tuesday that a girl, who had suffered a respiratory illness while at Dilley, had died soon after her release.
“The child died following her stay at an ICE Detention Center, as a result of possible negligent care and a respiratory illness she contracted from one of the other children,” the tweet said. She added that the girl had a grandmother in New Jersey.
Yegani said she learned of the death online through a D.C. lawyer, Melissa Turcios.
In an email to The Post, Turcios said she is a friend of the child’s family and is helping them to obtain pro bono legal counsel but had no further comment.