Poor Care Contributed to Migrant Deaths in US Jails - Report

By Sebastien Malo

May 09, 2017

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Illegal migrants detained by U.S. authorities receive medical care so flawed that it contributed to seven deaths, two human rights groups reported on Monday.

The findings by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) come as authorities under President Donald Trump are ramping up detention of immigrants in the United States without proper documents.

Detained migrants are systematically subjected to "substandard and dangerous medical care," including long delays and staff providing care without professional licenses, according to the findings. The report analyzed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) records and conducted more than 90 interviews.

"Subpar care contributed to seven" of 18 detention deaths investigated by independent experts from 2012 to 2015, HRW and CIVIC said in a statement.

"The data reveals that people in immigration detention died needlessly," said Grace Meng, an HRW senior researcher.

One man who died of organ failure while detained in California complained of symptoms of cancer for two years but only received adequate medical attention a month before his death, the report said.

The 44-year-old man had previously been treated merely with ibuprofen, it said.

ICE is assigned to apprehend immigrants who are illegally in the United States and if needed detain them in facilities it runs or in facilities it contracts out.

An ICE spokeswoman said the agency would review the report.

"ICE is committed to ensuring the welfare of all those in the agency's custody, including providing access to necessary and appropriate medical care," Jennifer Elzea told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an email.

"At no time during detention will a detainee be denied emergent care."

HRW and CIVIC said they are concerned over Trump's plan to increase migrant detentions and said their findings point to a "crisis" in detainee health care.

"We have a system that is broken for detainee health care, and adding more detainees to that system can only make it worse," said Marc Stern, a correctional health expert who analyzed ICE records for the report, in a statement.

Just days after he was inaugurated president in January, Trump issued an executive order aimed at holding migrants in detention until their cases are heard and speeding up deportations.

He had campaigned on a promise to get tough on the nation's estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.

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