Advocates say ICE denying proper care to child with head injury

Advocates say ICE denying proper care to child with head injury
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Family members and advocates for a 5-year-old Guatemalan boy in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody say he is not receiving proper care for a head injury.

The boy fell out of a shopping cart and fractured his skull about a month before being detained by ICE, according to Dr. Amy Cohen, executive director of Every Last One, an advocacy group that works to end childhood detention.

The child is in custody along with his mother and his 1-year-old brother at the detention center in Dilley, Texas, after the family was detained during what they believed to be a routine check-in at an ICE office in Los Angeles.

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The father was put in detention in a separate facility in California.

When the family was taken into custody on January 21, the boy's mother called her sister — then living with the family — to take the boy's medical records to the ICE office, Cohen told The Hill.

The boy had received medical treatment after the accident and was scheduled to visit a neurosurgeon and a neurologist for follow-up visits.

Between the accident and the detention, he developed symptoms, including bedwetting, that could be a sign of complications from his injury, said Cohen.

"The worry, of course, is that incontinence is often an accompanying sign of generalized seizures," Cohen said.

According to Cohen, the agents refused to receive the medical records before sending the mother and two boys to Texas.

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A representative for ICE said the agency did not learn of the boy's accident until January 23, two days after the family's detention.

"When the two entered custody on Jan. 21, the mother did not mention the head injury, and a routine health care exam of the 5-year-old on Jan. 23 did not reveal any apparent medical issues," the representative told The Hill in an email.

After the transfer to Texas, ICE claims the boy showed no symptoms, including during a January 27 evaluation, until Tuesday.

But Cohen said the boy's aunt reported the boy had been "chronically crying with pain, low functioning, not able to play, and somnolent."

The boy's aunt relayed to Cohen that the mother said guards at the Texas facility "constantly told [her] 'there's nothing wrong with him, here's some Tylenol.'"

The Associated Press first reported the story, saying that that the boy was first hospitalized by ICE Tuesday, a day after the AP contacted ICE for comment.

ICE told The Hill the mother reported the boy had a headache Monday, "and again mentioned his previous accident, that the child had been hospitalized, and that he had been neurologically cleared."

At a neurological exam Tuesday, the boy's mother mentioned the bedwetting and headaches to a pediatrician, who referred the child to a San Antonio hospital.

Cohen said the boy continues to be in need of medical supervision that may not be available to him if returned to Guatemala.

"If ICE wants to demonstrate concern, they will not be sending this family to a situation where their lives are already in danger and may not be able to get the medical attention they require," Cohen said.

ICE reported Wednesday that the boy will be returning to the detention center after leaving the hospital.

“The morning of Feb. 5, a hospital physician advised that the child’s radiology report showed a normal MRI and no sign of epidural hematoma. The child is awaiting discharge from the hospital to return to the South Texas Family Residential Center,” wrote the representative for ICE.

—Updated at 6:13 p.m.