Yet Another Person Has Died in ICE Custody

An April 13, 2009 photo of an employee of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA., waiting for the front gate to be opened so she can enter.
Photo: Kate Brumback/AP

Pedro Arriago-Santoya, a 44-year old Mexican national in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, died on Wednesday at the Piedmont Midtown Medical Center in Columbus, GA, BuzzFeed News reported. He is the 7th person to die in ICE custody since October.

Arriago-Santoya had been in ICE custody since April undergoing deportation proceedings, a source told BuzzFeed News. Under deportation order by a judge, Arriago-Santoya was sent to the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA, on June 6.

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He died of multiple causes, from BuzzFeed News:

The Mexican national died at Piedmont Midtown Medical Center in Columbus, with staff there identifying his preliminary cause of death as cardio-pulmonary arrest. Secondary causes of death were listed as multi-organ system failure; endocarditis, or an infection of the inner linings of the heart; diluted cardiomyopathy, or a reduced ability by the heart to pump blood; and respiratory failure.

CoreCivic, which operates the detention center, told journalist Jose Olivares in a statement that Arriago-Santoya presented himself to health services on July 20, which then recommended that he be taken to the hospital. According to BuzzFeed News, Arriago-Santoya went into cardiac arrest two days after being admitted to the hospital, and was placed on a ventilator and moved into intensive care. On Wednesday, he went into cardiac arrest again, and died.

CoreCivic is one of the largest private prison corporations in the U.S. As Olivares pointed out on Twitter, three other migrants have died after being detained at the Stewart facility since May 2017. In two cases, men who had both been diagnosed with schizophrenia committed suicide after being placed in solitary confinement; a third man, who reportedly had no health problems when he was transferred to Stewart, later died of pneumonia, a lung infection, and viral influenza.

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ICE told BuzzFeed News that it contacted the Mexican consulate, but that they were unable to find Arriago-Santoya’s family members. In a statement from spokesman Bryan Cox, ICE said it’s committed to the health and welfare of the people it detains, and is reviewing the death.

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“Fatalities in ICE custody, statistically, are exceedingly rare and occur at a small fraction of the rate of the US detained population as a whole,” the statement continued.

In addition to the 7 people who have died in ICE custody this year, at least seven children have died in immigrant detention or after being released since May of last year. Earlier this month, Yazmin Juárez, the mother of a 1-year-old who died of a respiratory infection she allegedly contracted after the two were placed in ICE custody in March 2018, testified before a House subcommittee and pleaded for the end of senseless deaths of children under the watch of immigration officials.

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“My daughter is gone. The people who are in charge of running these facilities and caring for these little angels are not supposed to let these things happen to them,” Juárez said at the time. “It can’t be so hard for a country like the United States to protect kids who are locked up.”

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About the author

Samantha Grasso

Splinter Staff Writer, Texan