BuzzFeed News recently obtained a Homeland Security memo describing allegations of inadequate medical care for immigrants in detention centers.
According to information BuzzFeed obtained from the memo, “Immigrants held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement jails around the U.S. received medical care so bad it resulted in two preventable surgeries, including an 8-year-old boy who had to have part of his forehead removed, and contributed to four deaths.”
The BuzzFeed report also stated that “three people had died in ICE lockup after receiving inadequate medical treatment or oversight, and said official reports on a fourth person’s death were ‘very misleading.’ One man died from meningitis following ‘grossly negligent’ care. Another killed himself after saying he would do exactly that months earlier.”
The whistleblower’s allegations were sent to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general in April of 2018 and were then forwarded to the DHS officer for Civil Rights and Liberties as well as top Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) leadership in July of 2018 for further investigation.
Recently, the House Oversight and Reform Committee opened up an investigation into the medical care of immigrants in detention centers. The congressional committee issued letters demanding documents from DHS and ICE by January 10, 2020. A spokesperson for DHS recently stated that the Department has already provided the committee with more than 5,000 pages of documents relating to the medical care of immigrant detainees.
A report from USA Today has also highlighted the poor medical care provided in such facilities. In one instance, “Thomas, a diabetic, said he’s lost 20 pounds in ICE custody because of a combination of medical errors and questionable food preparation. He said he’s gone up to two weeks without receiving his diabetes medication and was fed a diet not suited for an unmedicated diabetic.”
In another incident, a female detainee “said she was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a chronic mental health condition, four years ago. But after she was jailed in 2018, she asked for her medication for weeks to no avail.”
DHS asserts that they “are dedicated to providing timely and comprehensive medical care to immigrants in their custody, noting that they have access to a daily sick call and 24-hour emergency care.”
The current House investigation into the inadequate treatment of immigrant detainees will likely shed more information on the urgent situation at hand.