Wednesday, August 15, 2007

At Least 62 Die in ICE Custody Since 2004

Three of those deaths have been in the last month, and the ACLU National Prison Project has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of detainees held in dangerous conditions. Of the three recent deaths, two were being deported and one, a woman seven months pregnant, was a legal resident.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) houses on average 19,400 inmates day, about the same population as the number of those enrolled at the University of California at Santa Barbara, where fewer than five people died last year. If the average number of annual deaths at UCSB were the same as those for the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities, then that would mean about 20 students annually would die, which is probably an understatement since the data come from ICE and if they are not conscientious enough to respond to life-and-death situations with a pregnant woman for whom they are responsible, then there is no reason to think they are diligent in their record-keeping of such negligence.

According to today's article in the Washington Post:
The dead were a pregnant Mexican woman who lost consciousness at a facility in El Paso, a Mexican AIDS patient whose condition steadily deteriorated in a San Pedro, Calif., prison and a Brazilian whose family implored authorities to give him medicine for his epileptic seizures in Rhode Island, according to the American Civil Liberties Union and published reports.

By the way, someone I know had a friend in detention who also was denied his AIDS medication after a late-night ICE raid of an AMTRAK train near Buffalo.

The Post story continues:
With the exception of the pregnant woman, Rosa Isela Contreras-Dominguez, 38, those who died were illegal immigrants being processed for deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a Department of Homeland Security division known as ICE. The two others were identified as Edmar Alves Araujo, 34, of Brazil and Victoria Arellano, 23, of Mexico....

"We've been saying for a long time now that we have serious concerns about the medical care provided to individuals in detention," said Tom Jawetz, a staff lawyer for the ACLU's National Prison Project.

"It's been a closed system for far too long. People are going to continue to die unless changes are made," Jawetz said.

Arellano, a transgender person whose given name was Victor, was the first to die, on July 20. She was detained in May for entering the country illegally for a second time.

During detention in San Pedro, attorneys said, her AIDS treatment lapsed. As she vomited blood, fellow inmates cared for her in vain. She was eventually taken to a San Pedro hospital and died while shackled to a bed, an attorney for the family said.

Contreras, a legal resident from Juarez, Mexico, died about a week after entering ICE custody in El Paso on Aug. 1. She was seized for deportation after serving an 18-month prison sentence for bringing 65 pounds of marijuana into the United States.

Raimondi said Contreras, who was seven weeks pregnant, was taken to an emergency room immediately after notifying the medical staff that she suffered from blood clotting. Later, after complaining of pain in her leg, she was taken to a hospital, where she died.

Araujo died shortly after being taken into federal custody on Aug. 7. His sister, Irene, said she tried to give his medication for seizures to Woonsocket, R.I., police who detained him for a traffic violation but they refused to accept it.

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