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ICE Detainee Deaths Were Preventable: Document

Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainee JeanCarlo Jimenez-Joseph hanged himself in 2017.


(Image: Photo by Georgia Bureau of Investigation.)

The deaths of multiple Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees were preventable, according to internal agency documents obtained by The Young Turks. One ICE official told TYT the problem is “systemic.”

“IHSC [ICE’s Health Services Corps] is severely dysfunctional and unfortunately preventable harm and death to detainees has occurred,” an ICE supervisor notified Matthew Albence, then Acting Deputy Director of ICE, in a memo dated December 3, 2018.

ICE did not respond to multiple requests for comment from TYT.

Albence touched off controversy last year when he likened ICE detention centers to “summer camp.”

Several ICE whistleblowers have come forward alleging misconduct by the agency in recent months. In May, Ellen Gallagher, a former senior policy advisor at ICE’s parent agency, DHS, told NBC News that she had seen ICE “brutalize” detainees with solitary confinement for minor infractions. Documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and shared with several news outlets detailed ICE’s widespread use of solitary confinement.

Last June, when ICE whistleblower James Schwab was doing an interview with CBS News at his home in San Francisco, DHS agents interrupted the interview, demanding to speak with him. Schwab had alleged “false” and “misleading” statements made by ICE under the Trump administration.

The memo obtained by TYT, bearing the subject line “Urgent Matter,” was written by a supervisor at ICE’s IHSC. It details over a dozen cases in which ICE allegedly failed to provide its detainees with proper medical care, including three which resulted in fatalities.

One of the cases involves alleged ICE “negligence” in handling a medical incident, resulting in a detainee’s death at ICE’s Eloy Detention Center in Arizona. According to the document, ICE did not heed warnings from an official about an apparent case of “neuroleptic malignant syndrome.”

The memo plainly says of another ICE detainee, “Suicide victim, Mr. Efrain De La Rosa, could have been saved.” The document goes on to state that ICE “received a total of 12 SEN [Significant Event Notifications] reports prior to his death, depicting suicidal ideation and psychosis.”

Key components of ICE would not even review the SEN reports, according to the memo.

“Moreover, Mr. De La Rosa was not being treated with psychotropic medication; instead, he was remanded to segregation.”

“Mr. De La Rosa’s suicide closely mirrors the previous suicide of Mr. Joseph Jimenez at Stewart Detention Center,” the memo adds, referencing the third fatality that was allegedly preventable.

Another case referenced in the documents involves a detainee identified as a suicide risk having been prescribed an anti-histamine at the Stewart Detention Center.

In yet another case, a detainee was removed from respiratory isolation despite having tuberculosis, potentially putting other detainees at risk for infection.

Several cases mentioned involved a failure by ICE to detox detainees who had either been on potent medications or had substance addictions. Failure to taper individuals off of certain medications or substances can result in serious injury or even death.

The documents note ICE having “identified… [a] trend of detainees not treated for alcohol/drug withdrawal.”

The memo goes on to state, “Many detainees have encountered preventable harm and death. IHSC leadership is not focused on preventing horrible recurrences.”

In a separate ICE memo obtained by TYT, the same ICE supervisor identified five separate cases in just a few months--from November 2017 to March 2018--when ICE failed to detox detainees.

“It’s a systemic problem,” an ICE official told TYT on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

ICE’s failure to detox its detainees has resulted in seizures, according to additional documents obtained by TYT. One report details an incident at ICE’s Florence Correctional Center in Arizona, in which a detainee who had taken Xanax daily had a seizure, resulting in a laceration to his left eye. According to the report, ICE failed to provide the medical provider with the detainee’s medical history.

Ed. note: An earlier version of this article mistakenly identified the location where Efraid De La Rosa died. It has been updated to remove the error and clarify details of his case.

Ken Klippenstein is a senior investigative reporter for TYT. He can be reached securely via Signal at 202-510-1268, on Twitter @kenklippenstein or via email: [email protected].

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