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Deaths in Detention Marks Eight-Year High in 2017

Image Source: Detention Watch Network and IMM Print

The Houston Chronicle reported on January 12 that the death toll in detention reached an eight-year high in 2017 with a total of twelve deaths. "The number of deaths in 2017 has alarmed immigration activists, who have long accused immigration officials and detention center operators of providing delayed or substandard medical care and ignoring complaints of illness,” the article stated.

The article featured the story of Felipe Almazan-Ruiz, who passed away on September 17 from cardiac arrest. Almazan-Ruiz was transferred from Florida to Livingston, Texas, following Hurricane Irma. The article also featured a map of all deaths in detention centers since ICE was created in 2003.

“Simply put, detention and deportation are a deadly business,” Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, said. Libal commented that the “high-profile failings of the detention system in Texas” present major concerns when considering ICE’s plans to increase the number of detainees in privately owned facilities. This year, ICE plans to open a 1,000-bed for-profit detention center in Conroe, adjacent to Joe Corley Detention Facility.

This “deadly business” was investigated by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in December. The OIG report stated: "Overall, the problems we identified undermine the protection of detainees' rights, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment.” The investigators visited Laredo Processing Center along with five other facilities, and found that several facilities had inadequate medical care and misused solitary confinement, contributing to detainees’ health issues and deaths.

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