Several members of Congress have issued statements in response to a report by The Young Turks on medical conditions within ICE detention facilities.
On Monday, TYT reported on an internal ICE memo describing medical problems, including multiple detainee deaths, as having been preventable.
“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.
Shortly thereafter, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) referenced TYT’s story, tweeting, “ICE is an organization that has become increasingly militarized, brutal, and unaccountable; it must be abolished.”
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and its Subcommittee on Oversight, Management and Responsibility, issued the following statement: “These troubling accusations - if true - confirm the worst fears of all of us worried about this administration's draconian approach to immigration.
“It appears ICE has entrusted these detainees to private prison companies who had little regard for the lives of people entrusted to them. To think, the United States government employs companies that act like those in countries with despots.
“The first thing we need to do is end the private prison contracts, prosecute those companies responsible, and discipline or remove federal employees as warranted by their inhumane actions.”
The three deaths alleged to have been preventable in the ICE document obtained by TYT took place at private prison facilities used by ICE to house detainees.
In an interview with TYT in response to the article, Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) said he had seen similarly inadequate medical conditions when he visited border facilities.
“On my visit to the border when the young Jakeline Caal died, what I saw there was...border patrol guards are obviously not trained adequately to address any life threatening conditions that a child may have or anybody may have," Espaillat said.
“The conditions that they’re held under are horrible. Right next to where she got treated you had maybe 70 women with their children sleeping on the floor like sardines. No hygiene or conditions for any family to stay in.
“Many of these children and families cross through very rough terrain so when they get to the border they’re in very rough condition.”
Rep. Espaillat was himself an undocumented immigrant, the first ever to serve in Congress.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) issued the following statement in response to TYT’s story: “The absence of any transparency or accountability for ICE has allowed them to cover up their responsibility in numerous preventable deaths of detainees in their custody.
“It’s no secret that the conditions and medical care in these facilities are nothing short of abhorrent, and it is long past time that these abuses end. I’ve called for numerous independent investigations into abuses and practices like these, and I will continue to do so until ICE and this administration are held fully accountable for their actions.”
Assistant Speaker of the House Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) expressed concern about issues similar to those described in the memo.
“The Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda is inhumane and has needlessly caused the deaths of innocent women, men, and children. That is why we need vigorous oversight of their border and immigration policies. Children kept in cages, families separated, and people being denied basic services represents a corruption of both our values and legal systems,” Luján told TYT.