By Nomaan Merchant | Associated Press
HOUSTON — The mother of a 5-year-old Guatemalan boy sued U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement over the medical care he has received in detention for a head injury suffered before the family was arrested.
The lawsuit filed late Friday in California asks a judge to order the child to be taken to a pediatric neurologist or pediatric neurosurgeon. It also seeks to prevent ICE from trying to immediately deport the family.
The boy fell out of a shopping cart in December, fractured his skull and suffered bleeding around his brain. About a month later, he and his family were detained by ICE during what they thought was a routine check-in. The boy, his 1-year-old brother and their mother were taken to ICE’s family detention center at Dilley, Texas, while their father was taken to a detention center in California.
The child’s relatives and advocates allege that ICE is not properly treating symptoms caused by the accident that began before he was detained. The boy has severe headaches and is hypersensitive to normal levels of sound, according to his aunt and Dr. Amy Cohen, an advocate working with the family. He is also starting to wet himself, according to his aunt. They allege the boy’s mother has pleaded for medical care but has been disregarded.
ICE has defended the care the boy has received at Dilley. The agency says medical staff at the detention center conducted multiple check-ups and found no lasting neurological issues. After The Associated Press first inquired about the case on Monday, ICE took the boy to the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio on Tuesday and Wednesday, where he was found to have a normal MRI and no signs of continued bleeding in his skull.
The boy was not seen at the hospital by a pediatric neurologist, according to medical records obtained by his family’s attorneys. According to the records, hospital doctors consulted the neurosurgery department and determined that no follow-up was necessary because the MRI was clear.
Cohen said the boy had an appointment to see a neurologist before the family was detained by ICE. The symptoms his family reported began before their detention and could be caused by a head injury even if the initial bleeding is gone, meaning that an MRI would not be enough, she said.
The San Antonio hospital also did not have the paperwork from the California hospital that first treated him, according to the latest records. Doctors at the first hospital determined that the boy needed a neurosurgery follow-up within four weeks.
In a statement Thursday, ICE said it was determined that “no issues were present that required the need to elevate the case to another neurological specialist.” It declined to comment Saturday on the lawsuit. The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio declined to comment Friday on the case.
The AP is withholding the names of the boy and his family because they fear imminent deportation to Guatemala, where the boy’s mother says she was threatened.