Just last week, the Human Rights Watch released an extensive report on the 2013 death of Tiombe Kimana Carlos, an immigrant who committed suicide after more than two years in ICE custody. According to the report, one doctor stated that she received “dangerously subpar medical care” and that the facility had “failed to create a mental health treatment plan” for the chronic schizophrenia she was diagnosed with as a teen. Carlos, originally from the Caribbean nation of Antigua-Barbuda, “was 34 when she killed herself with a noose made from a bed sheet.”
Earlier this year, journalist Maria Hinojosa detailed the 2015 suicide of Jose de Jesus Deniz Sahagun, a Mexican immigrant who was initially hospitalized after his first suicide attempt. After the young man was discharged, he was put into solitary confinement at the Eloy detention center facility. While he appeared to improve, a report after his death found that a “doctor took him off of suicide watch without filling out a proper mental health evaluation. The investigators also found that Eloy had no mental health providers on call after hours—a breach of ICE healthcare standards”:
Surveillance video from outside Deniz Sahagun's cell shows that once the guards found him unresponsive, they waited for a protective shield for seven minutes before entering his cell. A handheld video taken by one of the guards offers a three-minute look inside the cell. The first thing staff did once they went in was to handcuff Deniz Sahagun. [Dr. Allen Keller, an expert on health care and human rights at New York University] says the first thing should've been to check to see if he was breathing.
“The first thing going through their head was not, A, for airway, it was, S, for safety,” Dr. Keller told Hinojosa. “And that's in many ways understandable. Between the handcuffing and then uncuffing him—that's precious time. The clock of life and saving a life is ticking.”
A report released last year by the ACLU, Detention Watch Network, and National Immigrant Justice Center on immigrant deaths while in the agency’s custody found that “even though ICE’s internal reviews identified violations of medical standards as contributing factors in these deaths, routine ICE inspections before and after the deaths failed to acknowledge—or at times dismissed—these violations. Instead of forcing changes in culture, systems, and processes that could reduce future deaths, ICE’s deficient inspections system essentially swept the agency’s own death review findings under the rug”:
When President Barack Obama first came into office in 2009, one of his earliest initiatives was to adopt detention reforms in response to revelations of how ICE covered up substandard medical care and deaths in detention. Yet as the Obama administration draws to a close, ICE is still not holding detention facilities accountable when they fail to deliver adequate medical care. “Fatal Neglect” illustrates the stark gap between the promise and the reality of the Obama administration's immigration detention reform initiatives.
Instead of ignoring its own investigations, ICE must learn from its deadly errors. That means providing swift, quality medical care to those who need it and overhauling the inspections process to stop more people from dying in detention. No family deserves to wonder if their loved one died a preventable death in ICE custody.
We’ve already established the fact that ICE has been an ongoing force terrorizing immigrant families throughout both Democratic and Republican administrations. But when are we finally going to take steps to rein it in, and put an end to this state-sanctioned madness?