Immigrants are dying while in ICE custody, and it’s a problem that seems to be getting worse. Last week, Vincente Caceres-Maradiaga, a Honduran national, collapsed while playing soccer at the Adelanto Detention Facility, a privately operated federal prison operated by prison “profiteers” GEO Group. According to ICE, staff “issued a code blue and immediately began efforts to resuscitate” Caceres-Maradiaga, who was receiving treatment for both hypertension and an umbilical hernia while under detention. But Caceres-Maradiaga died while en route to the hospital, becoming the ninth person to die in ICE custody this year, and the third person in three months to die at Adelanto. According to Mother Jones, “since it opened in 2011, Adelanto has faced accusations of insufficient medical care and poor conditions”:
In July 2015, 29 members of Congress sent a letter to ICE and federal inspectors requesting an investigation into health and safety concerns at the facility. They cited the 2012 death of Fernando Dominguez at the facility, saying it was the result of "egregious errors" by the center's medical staff, who did not give him proper medical examinations or allow him to receive timely off-site treatment. In November 2015, 400 detainees began a hunger strike, demanding better medical and dental care along with other reforms.
In March, Osmar Epifanio Gonzalez-Gadba, a Nicaraguan national, died six days after attempting suicide at Adelanto. Gonzalez-Gadba was found hanging in his cell and after efforts to resuscitate him, was transferred to a hospital and placed on life support. “He never regained consciousness.” The next month, Sergio Alonso Lopez, a Mexican national, died from internal bleeding after throwing up blood at Adelanto. And now, a third Adelanto detainee has died in as many months. What does it say about a facility when it has been able to go only two months this year without someone dying under their care?
As Mother Jones notes, despite concerns from members of Congress and immigrant rights advocates, the city of Adelanto instead decided to extend GEO Group’s contract until 2021, guaranteeing Adelanto a minimum of 975 detainees at $111 each per day. For deadly private prison groups like GEO, it’s always about profits first, with the Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff noting last month that the company stands to rake in huge amounts of money under Donald Trump’s mass deportation roundup. GEO Group stock surged nearly 20 percent the day after the election—Trump’s opponent, popular vote winner Hillary Clinton, pledged to put an end to private detention centers like Adelanto. In California, legislators are attempting to take steps to rein them in:
Of California's four privately run immigration detention centers, three use local governments as intermediaries between ICE and private prison companies. On Tuesday, the California senate voted 26-13 to ban such contracts, supporting a bill that could potentially close Adelanto when its contract runs out in 2021. The Dignity Not Detention Act, authored by [California state Sen. Ricardo] Lara, would prevent local governments from signing or extending contracts with private prison companies to detain immigrants starting in 2019. The bill would also require all in-state facilities that hold ICE detainees, including both private detention centers and public jails, to meet national standards for detention conditions—empowering state prosecutors to hold detention center operators accountable for poor conditions inside their facilities.
This could be some much-needed local accountability when Trump, Department of Homeland Security Sec. John Kelly, and congressional Republicans are doing nothing on the federal level about this problem. But as Mother Jones notes, there could be some battles ahead, since Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill last year, instead deferring to DHS, “which was then reviewing its use of for-profit immigration detention.” But with Trump now in office and the federal government since moving “to expand private immigration detention” and “signing a $110 million deal with GEO in April to build the first new immigration detention center under Trump,” the risks are just too high—and deadly—this time around to abdicate responsibility.