In the same way, mass shootings are now the norm in the United States; the same could be said about deaths among undocumented people in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. But we should always remember, these are real people that are dying. They each have a story and they all matter.
Unfortunately, the information about each death that has occurred within ICE custody isn’t as readily available as it should be. We attempted to locate each individual that died this year alone (and not the fiscal year which began on Oct. 2018) while being detained in immigration detention centers. In response to our inquiry about migrant deaths in ICE custody, ICE sent us reports for the fiscal year beginning in October 2018 until the present. However, the report shows only three deaths since the start of the year. The link to the report they provided does not include deaths of children or other deaths.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also released a lengthy report about deaths within ICE custody and they report, that to date, “31 immigrants, including at least seven children, have died in immigration custody during the Trump administration.”
Our research includes undocumented men, women, and children that were held in detention centers across the country at the time of their death. Here’s what we found.
A 37-year-old male Mexican national died on Sept. 10.
Roberto Rodriguez-Espinoza, a 37-year-old man, died at a detention center on Sept. 10 in Illinois, according to BuzzFeed News. He was reportedly the eighth person to die in ICE custody this fiscal year. Little is known about why or how this man died, but BuzzFeed reported that he was held at the McHenry County Adult Correctional Facility in Woodstock, Illinois.
According to a statement by ICE, the cause of death was a subdural hematoma.
“On Sept. 8, the hospital transferred him via ambulance to Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital, in Huntley, Illinois, where he was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage,” ICE stated. “He was then transferred to Central DuPage Hospital for a neurosurgery consult. Rodriguez-Espinoza failed to respond during a neurological exam performed upon arrival at Central DuPage, and the attending neurosurgeon advised that Rodriguez-Espinoza was unlikely to survive the surgery.”
A 44-year-old male Mexican national died on July 24.
Pedro Arriago-Santoya detained at the Stewart Detention Facility in Lumpkin, Georgia, died on July 24. ICE reports that Arriago-Santoya died of a “cardio-pulmonary arrest secondary to multi-organ system failure, endocarditis, dilated cardiomyopathy with a low ejection fraction and respiratory failure.” He was first detained on April 24.
“On July 20, at 12:57 p.m., Mr. Arriago-Santoya initially complained to staff at the Stewart Detention Center of abdominal pain,” ICE reports. “He was promptly seen by a nurse practitioner at Stewart who conducted a medical assessment, and Mr. Arriago-Santoya was then transferred that same day via ambulance to the Southwest Georgia Regional Hospital in Cuthbert, Georgia.”
A 30-year-old male Honduran national died June 30.
ICE officials found Yimi Alexis Balderramos-Torres, 30, unresponsive in his dormitory. When his death was first reported, the results of his autopsy were still pending.
According to a press release statement, on May 17, 2019, Balderramos-Torres was encountered by the U.S. Border Patrol in El Paso, Texas. He was found to be inadmissible to the U.S. and returned to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols pending disposition of his immigration proceedings. Ten days later, on May 27, Balderramos-Torres again illegally entered the U.S. He was encountered by local law enforcement during a routine traffic stop; he was transferred to ICE custody June 6. Balderramos-Torres’s previous removal order from 2013 was reinstated, and he remained in ICE custody pending his second removal to Honduras.
A 25-year-old trans woman, El Salvador national, died on June 1.
Johana Medina León, a 25-year-old trans woman, that was seeking asylum from El Salvador died on June 1 after being detained for more than a month and was reportedly sick the entire time. León died at the Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso, Texas.
The Guardian reports, “Immigration officials first encountered Medina León on 11 April at the Paso del Norte port of entry, by El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. She was transferred to ICE custody, and she passed her first interview in the asylum process a month later, with authorities determining she had “credible fear” of persecution if forced to return to El Salvador, ICE said in a statement on Monday.”
A 2-year-old boy, Guatemala national died on May 14.
On May 14, after being in the hospital for weeks, this child died in the custody of the Border Patrol. According to The Washington Post, the 2-year-old Guatemalan baby was apprehended at the border by immigration officials and then was held in custody for a couple of days. He then got sick and remained in the hospital for weeks and died on Tuesday. The death was confirmed by Guatemalan government officials, though the U.S. government has not released any official comment or information about the death. The baby is the fourth child to die in U.S. custody since December.
The Post reports that the child and mother were taken into custody on April 3, at the El Paso border, but then got sick with pneumonia. The baby’s mother reported that the child was ill on April 6 and was then taken to the hospital. They also had a court date for their immigration status on April 8. It’s unclear why the U.S. government has yet to release official information about this death considering that Border Patrol officials are supposed to “notify Congress of a death in custody within 24 hours.”
A 16-year-old boy, Guatemala national, died May 13.
A 16-year-old teen died on May 13. Carlos Hernandez Vásquez was being held at a Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas, and medical officials said of the flu. “To avoid the spread of illness, the Rio Grande Valley Sector has temporarily suspended intake operations at the [central processing center],” the CBP said in a statement back then. CBP has stated that there have been outbreaks of various diseases which means they have quarantined people off and on. The main issue is that these undocumented people are not getting proper medical care, whether they are sick or not.
A 21-year-old male Indian national died on May 3.
Simratpal Singh, a 21-year-old Indian national died on May 3 at the La Paz County Jail in Arizona. According to ICE, Singh passed away after efforts by medical staff to revive him were unsuccessful. At the time of his death, an autopsy was still pending to determine the official cause of death. According to an ABC report, Singh hung himself in his cell.
“After posting bond on charges of assault and sexual assault, Simratpal Singh, 21, was transferred to ICE custody on May 2, 2019, at the LPCJ while he awaited transfer to an ICE facility,” ICE reports On the same date, LPCJ personnel found Mr. Singh unresponsive and not breathing. Local paramedics were called, and Singh was transported via ambulance to the La Paz Regional Hospital in Parker, AZ, and subsequently airlifted to the Abrazo West Campus Hospital (AWCH) in Goodyear, AZ. On May 3, 2019, at 1:58 a.m., AWCH declared Mr. Singh deceased.”
A 16-year-old boy Guatemala national died on April 30.
On April 30, a 16-year-old undocumented child died in government custody less than two weeks after crossing the border in El Paso, Texas. The teen, a native of Guatemala, entered the country on April 19 and was presumed unaccompanied. It’s unclear if the boy had been traveling with family and got separated. The teen got placed at the controversial Southwest Key Casa Padre detention center. The center has been involved in several legal issues, including hiring unqualified workers, molestation reports, overcrowding, and a teen runaway case.
According to a BuzzFeed News report, the boy entered the detention center without any signs of illness and was there between the 19th and 20th. All that changed on the following day when the boy showed symptoms of fever, chills, and a headache.
A 54-year-old male Mexican national died on April 3.
Abel Reyes-Clemente, a Mexican national, died on April 3, at the age of 54 at the Florence Service Processing Center (SPC) in Arizona. According to ICE, Reyes-Clemente was found unresponsive, and medical staff and local paramedics attempted to revive him but were unsuccessful. An autopsy was still pending to determine the official cause of death. Reyes-Clemente was reportedly being detained in solitary confinement during the time of his death.
“Consistent with the agency’s protocols, the appropriate state health and local law enforcement agencies have been advised about the death, as have the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility,” ICE reported. “Additionally, ICE has notified the Mexican Consulate of Mr. Reyes’s death.”
A 40-year-old male Mexican national died March 17.
On March 17, a 40-year-old Mexican national died in Border Patrol Custody. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) report that he crossed the border illegally. The CBP tweeted a press release saying, the man “passed away yesterday at Las Palmas Medical Center after being diagnosed with flu-like symptoms, liver failure, and renal failure. Border Patrol agents apprehended him on March 17. Our condolences go out to his family.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Border Rights Center Director Astrid Dominguez said in a statement back then, according to NBC News, “a transparent and independent investigation into the conditions at CBP detention facilities and its medical care practices is needed immediately.”
A 45-year-old male Mexican national died on Feb. 18.
According to CBP, officials apprehended the man on February 2, 2019, near the Roma Port of Entry, in Roma, Texas, where he immediately requested medical attention. Officials took him to the Mission Regional Medical Center in Mission, Texas but then said he was cleared to be released and then transported to the Rio Grande City Border Patrol Station. The following day, he requested medical attention again. Officials took him to the Mission Regional Medical Center, which is where he remained until his passing. CBP also stated that doctors diagnosed him with cirrhosis of the liver and congestive heart failure, though an official cause of death is not yet known.