The amount of deaths of immigrant detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody has been on the rise over the past several years. A recent CNN report revealed that 21 people died in ICE custody this year, double the number of deaths in 2019. Immigrant advocates believe that this rise in deaths is due to worsening conditions in detention centers, lack of adequate medical care, as well as mishandling of COVID-19 by ICE.
According to the CNN Report, “More than a third of the people who died in ICE custody this year had tested positive for Covid-19 – including a 56-year-old man from the Marshall Islands, who died in a Louisiana hospital, and a 61-year-old man from Mexico, who died in a Georgia hospital last week.”
When questioned about this rising death count, ICE responded by detailing their efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 in detention centers and stated that the total number of detainees has decreased during the pandemic.
While there has been an increase in detainee deaths this year, past years have also revealed alarming numbers. BuzzFeed News filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request in 2019, requesting records pertaining to 25 deaths of detainees in ICE Custody. Over 5,000 pages of documents were released, revealing “that ICE’s own investigators raised serious concerns about the agency’s care of the people it detains, with one employee describing the treatment leading up to one death as ‘a bit scary.’”
In addition, “in multiple instances, guards who were supposed to observe detainees placed in solitary confinement for extra monitoring falsified records to hide apparent dereliction of duty. In at least two cases — at Eloy Detention Center in Arizona and Adelanto Detention Facility in California — people died while they were not being watched but should have been.”
Overall, these deaths of detainees in ICE custody reveal disturbing details of inadequate treatment and denial of basic human rights to immigrants. As immigrant advocates continue to speak out, it remains to be seen whether ICE will take the necessary steps to prevent more deaths of detainees in the future.