Diabetic woman detained at Hutto in urgent need of emergency care for improper treatment: Attorney’s request for medical release was denied this morning

June 27, 2017

(Austin, Texas) —  Yesterday Austin advocates launched a campaign demanding the release of Brenda Menjivar Guardado, a young woman from El Salvador who is experiencing serious symptoms related to improper treatment of diabetes by medical staff at the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas. Brenda had successfully kept her blood sugar at normal levels with insulin that she brought with her to the U.S. from El Salvador. However, when she was detained earlier this month in Laredo, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) took her medication from her and has refused to provide comparable treatment.

After her urgent health issues came to the attention of American Gateways, an agency that provides legal orientations for women detained at Hutto, they filed a request with an ICE officer at the Hutto Detention Center for her release on medical grounds.

The following is a statement from Whitney Drake, Brenda’s attorney at American Gateways:

Since arriving at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center on June 8, 2017, twenty-one-year-old asylum-seeker Brenda Menjivar Guardado has not received the proper medication to control her diabetes.  Her blood-sugar levels have consistently been dangerously high (as high as 452 on Friday, June 23).  She has lost about 15 pounds and has trouble breathing and blurred vision.  After learning about Brenda’s situation, American Gateways requested her release from detention on Friday, June 23.  In response, instead of properly addressing Brenda’s medical needs, ICE officials told her to drink four glasses of water in their presence and accused her of refusing to cooperate with the Hutto medical staff.  Brenda in fact receives five injections of insulin every day, but it is not the right insulin.  Before her detention, Brenda had self-administered a type of insulin that is both fast acting and long acting.  The type of insulin she receives at Hutto is long acting only.  One official told her that she would be better off in El Salvador because she will not get the medical treatment she needs in the United States.  As of Monday, June 26, ICE had not changed Brenda’s medication.

Brenda’s basic human rights are being violated.  American Gateways is concerned with Brenda’s short-term and long-term health, and based on the information we have received from medical professionals, Brenda’s situation already is or soon will be a medical emergency.

ICE denied our request for Brenda’s release on Tuesday, June 27.

Multiple medical professionals who are also members of the Hutto Visitation Program, a group of community members who visit immigrants in detention, expressed that Brenda’s symptoms should be considered a medical emergency.

“Given her blood sugars had been normal using her previous insulin, discarded by Laredo ICE, she is in more danger of going into diabetic ketoacidosis from the current high blood sugar levels than someone who has not maintained normal blood glucose levels. It is in the best interests of her health for her to receive evaluation and management of her insulin dependent diabetes by a licensed clinical practitioner outside of Hutto ICE because medical staff at Hutto have not been able to regulate her insulin to ensure a normal glucose level,” said nurse practitioner and community visitor Anita Jones, who was able to speak with Brenda on Friday. “Furthermore, Hutto staff appears resistant to facilitating appropriate diabetes management for her by insisting that she is not taking her insulin. She has a legal right as well as an ethical right to medical care that will provide the standard of care for diabetes evaluation and management. It has been shown that this does not occur at Hutto. She has a legal right to have her diabetes managed outside of Hutto ICE Detention Center and must immediately have that opportunity. Her condition is at risk of being life threatening for her.”

This medical emergency comes just weeks after Rolando Meza Espinoza died of alleged inadequate medical treatment for three chronic conditions including diabetes, after a month in ICE detention in New Jersey.

Contact: 

Bethany Carson, bcarson@grassrootsleadership.org, 512-499-8111

Robert Painter, robertp@americangateways.org, 608-213-5661