Lawyers who claim an infant died after leaving an ICE facility should release the baby’s name so law enforcement can fully investigate, a Texas official says.
Hank Whitman, commissioner for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said Thursday during a joint hearing between the state’s Committee on Human Services and Public Health, that it was impossible for his department to investigate the allegations further until they know more about the child and its family.
Whitman told the committee that he is aware of the reports and DFPS contacted the lawyer representing the family to learn more, but said the lawyer refused to share details.
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“We were being asked to investigate with no name,” he said. “We really want to go in and investigate that.”
He added: “I need to know the name of that child so we can investigate this thoroughly.”
ICE made a similar statement earlier this week, saying they “could look into this case” if more details were shared.
The story spread on social media the night of July 31 when Houston-based lawyer Mana Yegani tweeted that she had heard of claims “a child died in ICE custody in Dilley, Texas.”
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After ICE tweeted the following day that this was not the case, Yegani subsequently clarified that the child, a little girl, died following her stay at the detention center “as a result of possible negligent care and a respiratory illness she contracted from one of the other children.”
Yegani also revealed she based her tweets off a Facebook post written by Washington D.C.-based lawyer Melissa Turcios. When contacted by the Associated Press, Turcios confirmed she wrote the post but declined to comment further.
Several immigration lawyers seized on the claims, and the 15,000-member American Immigration Lawyers Association said it had confirmed the death. It was also picked up by several new outlets, including the Washington Post, even though no other information was released.
The Dilley detention center is the largest of ICE’s three such facilities. It can hold about 2,400 people. It has been accused by the Dilley Pro Bono Project, an immigrant aid group, of suffering from “ongoing inadequacies in the standard of care provided to immigrants in detention.”
The Washington D.C.-based legal firm Arnold & Porter is representing the family of the child pro bono but has not released any further details, Fox News has learned.
A spokesman told Fox News earlier this week: “Arnold & Porter has recently been retained by the mother of a small child who tragically died after being detained by ICE in unsanitary conditions at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley. We currently are assessing the case and have no further comments at this time.”
The firm has not yet responded to Whitman’s plea to release the name of the child.
Whitman also revealed during the hearing that there have been 51 investigations at facilities housing immigrant children, with nine still pending, but they have not been able to prove any allegations of abuse.