Tucson (US), Feb 26: US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has for years provided inadequate medical care at its detention facilities, leading to in-custody deaths, according to a report by a coalition of advocacy groups.
The ACLU, Detention Watch Network and National Immigrant Justice Center examined reports filed by an ICE review board in charge of investigating detention deaths. The coalition examined reports from 2010 to 2012, but advocates say the problem is getting worse.
Separately, ICE data from its website shows that there have been 155 in-custody deaths between October 2003 and Jan. 25. ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O'Keefe said in a statement that several of the detention centers described in the report have implemented more rigorous standards.
"US 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," Pitts O'Keefe wrote.
She added, "Under ICE's protocols, a detainee death triggers an immediate internal inquiry into the circumstances." Between 300,000 and 500,000 people are processed into ICE custody each year, and the agency says it spent over USD195 million last fiscal year on medical, mental and dental health care for detainees.
The advocacy groups focused on eight deaths in which the ICE Office of Detention Oversight found that a contributing cause of death was non-compliance with medical standards. The report highlighted Pablo Gracida-Conte, a 54-year-old Mexican migrant who died of cardiomyopathy in October 2011 in an Arizona hospital after being transferred from the Eloy Detention Center.
The Office of Detention Oversight found that medical staff had taken too long to call for help after Gracida-Conte was found experiencing chest pains and other symptoms.
Advocates say staff didn't try to work with a translator to communicate with Gracida-Conte, who spoke an indigenous language and had been complaining of symptoms for weeks. The Eloy Detention Center has reported 13 deaths since 2004, including several suicides.
The death of Jose de Jesus Deniz-Sahagun in May 2015 was declared a suicide. The 31-year-old Mexican immigrant was on suicide watch and monitored because of delusional thoughts and aggressive behavior, according to his autopsy report.