Mother Says 5-Month-Old Hospitalized With Pneumonia After Being Kept In 'Icebox' at Border

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A 5-month-old girl who came to the U.S. with the migrant caravan was hospitalized for pneumonia after she spent days in a freezing cell and was refused medical care, the child’s mother told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday.

The mother, identified as A. Portillo, told the site they were detained near Tijuana Dec. 12 and held for two days in facilities migrants call hieleras, or iceboxes, near the San Ysidro Port of Entry. She said her daughter had been taking the antibiotic amoxicillin, but she wasn’t allowed to keep it while in custody. Portillo, who fled Honduras because of domestic violence and threats by a neighborhood gang, said she told agents her daughter was sick but was told that it was normal for everyone coming to the facilities to be sick. Portillo’s daughter wasn’t given new medication, nor the opportunity to see a doctor.

“I said I needed a hospital because her breathing was getting worse,” Portillo told BuzzFeed. “The agents told me I wasn’t in a position to be asking for anything and that they didn’t tell me to come to the United States.”

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After two days, the mother and daughter were transferred to another facility in San Diego, where they stayed for three days. In both facilities, she said they remained in “freezing” temperatures inside the cells, conditions the National Immigration Law Center has called “unconstitutional” and “inhumane.”

Immigration agents released Portillo with an ankle monitor after five days in total. Portillo and her baby then flew to North Carolina to be with family, where she said the infant became physically ill, was hospitalized with a 102.7-degree fever, and was later diagnosed with pneumonia.

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News of the 5-month-old’s hospitalization comes just over a week after the death of Jakelin Caal, a 7 year old Guatemalan girl who became ill and died on Dec. 8 after being taken into Border Patrol custody, where she was reportedly denied care for 90 minutes even after her father notified agents she was sick.

On Tuesday, BuzzFeed also reported another 7-year-old girl went into cardiac arrest back in November after she was taken into custody, then fell ill, and was hospitalized. The girl was resuscitated, although not much else is known about her case.

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ICE did not immediately respond to Splinter’s requests for comment.

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Samantha Grasso

Splinter Staff Writer, Texan