Leaked ICE Memo Says Multiple Deaths of Immigrants in Custody Were Preventable

An immigrant’s hands in handcuffs while in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention
Photo: David J. Phillip/AP

At least two deaths of immigrants detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with injuries sustained by multiple immigrants in detention, were preventable, according to an internal memo obtained by the Young Turks on Monday.

The memo was addressed to then-acting ICE Deputy Director Matthew Albence. In it, a supervisor for ICE’s Health Services Corps—an arm of the agency tasked with providing healthcare to detained immigrants—wrote that IHSC is “severely dysfunctional and unfortunately preventable harm and death to detainees has occurred.”

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The supervisor alleged in the memo that they themselves provided senior leadership with “numerous” early warnings on detainees at high risk for harm or death, and that the IHSC was “highly effective” at dispatching these warnings. However, the supervisor continued by detailing more than 12 cases of ICE failing to provide proper medical treatment to detainees, at least two involving the deaths of detained immigrants.

From the Young Turks:

“Suicide victim, Mr. Efrain De La Rosa, could have been saved,” the memo says of the victim. The document goes on to state that ICE “received a total of 12 SEN [Significant Event Notifications] reports prior to his death, depicting suicidal ideation and psychosis.”

Key components of ICE would not even review the SEN reports, according to the memo.

“Moreover, Mr. De La Rosa was not being treated with psychotropic medication; instead, he was remanded to segregation.”

“Mr. De La Rosa’s suicide closely mirrors the previous suicide of Mr. Joseph Jimenez at Stewart Detention Center,” the memo adds, referencing the second fatality that was allegedly preventable.

Another case referenced in the documents involves a detainee identified as a suicide risk having been prescribed an anti-histamine at the Stewart Detention Center.

An ICE official told Young Turks that this was a “systemic” problem. I’ve reached out to ICE for comment and will update this post if I hear back.

ICE has long been accused of abusing detained immigrants (and U.S. citizens). Though ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are separate arms of the Department of Homeland Security, it appears that both agencies have been marred by similar tragedies. The December memo came two weeks before the deaths of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin and 8-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo, who were both in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody at their times of death. As of last month, six children have died in immigration custody, while a seventh died from complications related to pneumonia weeks after being released from ICE detention early last year.

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Read the full story at the Young Turks.

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About the author

Samantha Grasso

Splinter Staff Writer, Texan