Immigration Law

Inadequate medical care in immigration detention facilities leads to deaths, report says

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Inadequate medical care in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities has led to in-custody deaths, according to a study by three watchdog groups, the Associated Press reports.

Reports on deaths in detention from 2010 to 2012, filed by an ICE review board investigating deaths in detention centers, were examined by the ACLU, Detention Watch Network and the National Immigration Justice Center. They issued a report (PDF) on Thursday titled “Fatal Neglect: How ICE Ignores Deaths in Detention,” detailing the problem and say the it continues and is worsening, especially in Arizona.

Also, the AP reports, data on ICE’s website indicates there were 155 in-custody deaths between October 2003 and Jan. 25, 2016.

ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe issued a statement saying several detention centers mentioned in the watchdog report have increased standards.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) remains committed to providing a safe and humane environment for all those in its custody, including affording access to necessary and appropriate health care. ICE takes the death of any individual that occurs in the agency’s custody very seriously. Under ICE’s protocols, a detainee death triggers an immediate internal inquiry into the circumstances.”

The “Fatal Neglect” report focuses on eight deaths in which ICE’s Office of Detention Oversight found that noncompliance with medical standards contributed to the deaths.

In one, Pablo Gracida-Conte, a 54-year-old Mexican migrant, died of cardiomyopathy in October 2011 after he was found having chest pains and the staff didn’t seek medical care in a “timely and efficient manner.”

The report calls for detaining fewer immigrants awaiting hearings or deportation and for greater transparency by ICE. The agency, in turn, says it has made changes to ensure the safety of the 300,000 to 500,000 people it processes each year and last year spent more than $195 million on medical, mental and dental health care for detainees.

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