MONTEBELLO (CBSLA.com) — Juana Lopez stroked her 58-year-old son’s hand as he lay dying in an immigration detention center in Adelanto.
“I would hold his hand. I would touch him. I would tell him ‘I am here.’ But it was clear her was not understanding anything that was going on,” Lopez said in Spanish to CBS2/KCAL9 reporter Randy Paige.
Just days later, Francisco Dominguez Valivia passed away.
His death has prompted damning allegations about medical care at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility, with the government’s own report pinning the blame on the medical staff.
Lopez says her adult son became ill while he was being detained at the ICE facility. He was being held because the undocumented father of five was trying to convince immigration officials to let him stay in the United States.
Lopez says she crossed the border during a raging storm when her son was two years old, in search of a job and good medical care for her children.
Fifty-six years later, Lopez is suing because her son reportedly didn’t receive the kind of medical care that would have kept him alive.
“There was gross medical neglect and this is somebody’s death that could have been prevented,” American Civil Liberties Union attorney Michael Kaufman, who monitors issues related to medical care at ICE detention facilities.
The inspection report by the Department of Homeland Security concluded the center’s medical staff committed egregious errors and “failed to provide adequate health care to the detainee.”
The report goes on to say Dominguez’s death could have been prevented.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement will not comment on matters that are the subject of litigation, but, in a written statement the agency said, “…significant changes have been made to the immigration detention system and health care management…All ICE detainees should expect.
Attorney Arnoldo Casillas, who’s representing the family, says the lawsuit isn’t about money. He says there are severe limits on the amount that can be recovered in a case like this. He says the family brought this lawsuit to try and make sure a death like this doesn’t happen again.
Juana Lopez says she still can’t believe her son is gone: “What I miss most is that I’m not going to be able to see him anymore.”