New York Visa Lawyer

DYING IN IMMIGRATION DETENTION

On April 6, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the death of 61 year-old Salvador Vargas at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA which occurred on April 4. Deaths in ICE custody are far too common, and particularly devastating in detention centers with a history of medical neglect [and falsifying documents to cover up murder] Though this is the first reported death in ICE custody in 2023, this reporting can be misleading. ICE has repeatedly released critically-ill individuals from detention (most often to a hospital) to distance themselves from responsibility for an immigrant’s eventual death. There is an L.A. Times article detailing the practice of releasing people from custody so they can die somewhere that isn’t their property.

Deaths in ICE detention hit a 15-year high in fiscal year 2020, coinciding with the outbreak of COVID-19 and its devastating impact on people held in jails, prisons, and detention centers. While the pandemic contributed to some of the increase in deaths, overall conditions in detention when the Trump administration was detaining a record 50,000+ people, contributed to the high death toll.  

It is not just adults dying in immigration custody.

In recent months, at least seven children have either died in custody or after being detained by federal immigration agencies at the border. 

American Civil Liberties Union https://www.aclu.org/news/immigrants-rights/immigrant-kids-keep-dying-cbp-detention

The U.S. government has acknowledged these atrocities and they appear in a report released Thursday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee [which appears to have been removed from the government’s website]. It is mentioned briefly in this report by the oversight committee.

There is even a video of guards allowing a mentally ill man in immigration custody die from self-inflicted wounds, which I linked to below.

This video was taken at the Stewart Detention Center. The Stewart Detention Center, owned and operated by private prison company CoreCivic, is one of the largest immigration jails in the country — and the deadliest. Since 2017, eight people detained at Stewart have died: four from complications with Covid-19 and two by suicide, including Romero. Two others died of pneumonia and a heart attack.

In December, medical examiners concluded that 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, who also died in CBP custody, succumbed to “a rapidly progressive infection” that shut down her vital organs. CBP sent Jakelin on a 90-mile bus ride to another location after she was taken into custody, even though her father had told officials she was vomiting and feeling ill before they left.

CBP officials said last year that Jakelin waited an hour and a half to receive emergency medical care after showing symptoms. Deaths of several other migrant children were reported in just eight months following her death.

CBP holding facilities are “basically concrete floors with mats and barbed wire fencing and bright lights 24/7,” Linton said. “That can be a very disorienting environment to children.”

This is deeply disturbing as is the lack of news coverage and the lack of outrage.

The number of deaths in ICE custody increased dramatically during the 2020 fiscal year, which ends September 30. Eight of the 21 deaths in ICE custody were linked to Covid-19.

Note: Annual totals are for fiscal years, which run from October 1-September 30.

Source: US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Congress mandates that DHS post a list of the names and dates of death of individuals that died while being detained by ICE for immigration infractions, though this list does not include many people who died in custody for various reasons. You can see the official list here. So far in 2023 DHS acknowledges just a few of the several confirmed deaths that took place in their custody.

2023

Date of DeathName
October 13, 2022Mendoza, Melvin Ariel Calero
March 5, 2023Dumitrascu, Cristian
April 4, 2023Rosales-Vargas, Salvador
June 23, 2023Rocha-Cuadra, Ernesto

2022

Date of DeathName
October 1, 2021Sanchez-Gotopo, Pablo
July 8, 2022Gonzalez-Soto, Benjamin
August 24, 2022Vial, Kesley

2021

Date of DeathName
December 17, 2020Jones, Anthony
January 30, 2021Montes, Felipe
February 5, 2021Dean, Jesse
March 15, 2021Gallego-Agudelo, Diego Fernando
August 3, 2021Centeno-Briones, Elba Maria

2020

Date of DeathName
October 1, 2019Abienwi, Nebane
October 15, 2019Hernandez-Diaz, Roylan
December 21, 2019Akinyemi, Anthony Oluseye
December 29, 2019Mavinga, Samuelino
January 25, 2020Owen, Ben James
January 27, 2020Hernandez-Fundora, Alberto
February 20, 2020Hernandez-Colula, David
March 8, 2020Ochoa-Yoc De Ramirez, Maria Celeste
March 18, 2020Carcamo-Navarro, Orlan Ariel
March 21, 2020Hernandez-Ibarra, Ramiro
May 6, 2020Escobar-Mejia, Carlos Ernesto
May 17, 2020Ahn, Choung Woong
May 24, 2020Baten-Oxlaj, Santiago
July 12, 2020Perez-Montufa, Onoval
July 15, 2020Sanchez-Perez, Luis (aka Hernandez-Cabrera, Mauricio)
August 5, 2020Hill, James Tomas
August 5, 2020Lee, Kuan Hui
August 10, 2020Guillen Vega, Jose Freddy
August 28, 2020Sabonger-Garcia, Fernando
September 21, 2020Chavez Alvarez, Cipriano
September 26, 2020Jally, Romien


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