An NBC News analysis has found that 24 immigrants have died while in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Trump administration. That number doesn’t include immigrants who died while in the custody of other federal agencies.
Of the 24, three died in the past three months. And as the
number of immigrants ICE detains on a given day exceeded 52,000 earlier this
month, that number coupled with inadequate infrastructure and medical care
revealed in recent government reports have prompted advocates to warn that the
number of deaths could increase.
“What we’re seeing is a reckless and unprecedented expansion
of a system that is punitive, harmful and costly,” Katharina Obser, senior
policy adviser at the Women’s Refugee Commission, told NBC. “The U.S.
government is not even doing the bare minimum to ensure [immigrants] are
getting the medical care and the mental health care they need.”
The three latest deaths include a 54-year-old man from
Mexico, a 21-year-old man from India, and a 25-year-old asylum seeker.
The man from Mexico, Abel Reyes-Clemente, died in a cell in
Arizona in April. In a press release, ICE said he died due to complications
from the flu. But a county medical examiner determined that he died from
cirrhosis, diabetes, and heart disease, NBC reported.
A month later, Simratpal Singh, from India, died by hanging
in his cell. ICE’s press release said only that he was found unresponsive in
On June 1, asylum seeker Johana Medina Leon died in a
hospital in Texas after being held for six weeks in ICE’s custody. The cause of
that death is under investigation, although she was diagnosed with HIV while
she was detained.
An ICE spokesperson, however, told NBC
that deaths in ICE custody continue to be “exceedingly rare.”
published this week by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of
Inspector General shared the results of inspections at four ICE detention
facilities, three of them privately owned by the company GEO
Group Inc. The inspections took place between May and November last year,
and were prompted by concerns from immigrant rights groups and complaints to
the Office of Inspector General.
Inspectors found “immediate risks or egregious violations of
detention standards” at ICE detention facilities in Adelanto, CA, and Essex
County, NJ. Those findings included “nooses in detainee cells, overly
restrictive segregation, inadequate medical care, unreported security
incidents, and significant food safety issues,” the report said.
Inspectors found that:
All four facilities had issues with expired food, which puts detainees at risk for food-borne illnesses. At three facilities, we found that segregation practices violated standards and infringed on detainee rights. Two facilities failed to provide recreation outside detainee housing units. Bathrooms in two facilities’ detainee housing units were dilapidated and moldy. At one facility, detainees were not provided appropriate clothing and hygiene items to ensure they could properly care for themselves.
The report highlights the fact that detainees are held in
civil, not criminal custody, therefore detention conditions should not be
punitive. But upon inspection, “serious issues” were discovered with “administrative
and disciplinary segregation of detainees.” The practices were determined by
the office to “violate ICE detention standards and infringe on detainee rights.”
And the NBC report notes that considerable medical neglect
had led to some preventable deaths.
Earlier this week, Young Turks published a memo
it had obtained that was addressed to former acting ICE Deputy Director Matthew
Albence. In the memo, a supervisor for ICE’s Health Services Corps wrote
that IHSC is “severely dysfunctional and unfortunately preventable harm and
death to detainees has occurred.”
The supervisor detailed more than 12 cases in which ICE failed
to provide adequate medical treatment to detainees, and two of the cases
involved the deaths of detained immigrants, as Splinter’s Samantha Grasso noted
earlier this week.