17 Immigrants Have Died in ICE Custody This Year

The 17th person has died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody making this year the deadliest since 2006 when 19 immigrants died


Photo: Unsplash/Milad B. Fakurian

The 17th person has died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody making this year the deadliest since 2006 when 19 immigrants died. A total of eight people died in custody in 2019 so this year had been twice as deadly as the previous. The deaths are counted via this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

Canadian James Thomas Hill, 72,  reported feeling shortness of breath to staff at an ICE detention facility in Virginia on July 10. He was admitted to a hospital and diagnosed with Covid-19. An immigration judge had previously ordered his release on May 12, yet at the time of his death, he remained in ICE custody pending his removal.

ICE announced in April that of the 1.38 percent detainees tested for the coronavirus 85 percent were positive. Living in close quarters has been the main criticism for the spread of the virus in addition to the fact that ICE had tested such a small percentage. There are currently 1,065 positive cases of Covid-19 in custody and as of August 7th, there have been 22,580 detainees tested, according to agency data.

Kuan Hui Lee, 51, was the 17th person to die at a hospital in Florida on he was detained after a massive intracranial hemorrhage. He’d been arrested in January by Border Patrol for overstaying his temporary visa and died on August 5.

Former ICE director during the Obama administration John Sandweg told Buzzfeed news that the medical and mental healthcare in detention has worsened. “Many of these deaths were avoidable, unnecessary, and a direct result of the Trump administration’s refusal to take basic steps to protect the health and safety of detainees.”

A 2018 report examining medical treatment through ICE found that eight of the 15 public death reviews showed inadequate medical care contributed to the person’s death from December 2015 through April 2017. Additionally, the independent medical experts behind the report found evidence of substandard medical practices in all but one of the remaining reviews. Between 2004 and 2019 a total of 193 people died in immigration detention centers.

ICE puts thousands of people’s health and lives at risk by failing to provide adequate medical care to the people it detains for weeks, months, and even years,” Advocacy and Legal Director at the ACLU of Arizona Victoria Lopez said. “Despite known problems, ICE has failed to take necessary corrective action, and it continues to delay in disclosing records about deaths in detention to the public, making it nearly impossible for families of those who died to learn the causes of their loved ones’ deaths.”

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