WASHINGTON (CN) – The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have not responded for a year to requests about the deaths of 69 immigrants in DHS custody, the ACLU says in a federal FOIA complaint.
The DHS has informed Congress that at least 69 immigration detainees have died in ICE custody since 2004, the complaint states.
Reports indicate that “several of these deaths had been attributed to deficient medical care,” and that “in-custody deaths are not reported publicly and are not tracked or consistently investigated by any government agency,” the ACLU states.
Press reports of the deaths “came on the heels of an audit by the Defendant OIG finding serious problems with the delivery of heath care at four of five detention facilities reviewed,” the complaint states. “While the agencies delay, in clear violation of the FOIA, more immigration detainees are being imperiled by the ongoing and apparently pervasive nature of the agencies’ actions and inactions regarding immigration detainee health care.”
On June 13, 2007, the ACLU filed a class action on behalf of detainees at the San Diego Correctional Facility, alleging grossly inadequate of medical care “and the needless suffering and avoidable death that they continually faced.”
On June 26, The New York Times “quoted a sworn declaration of the warden of one of the largest detention facilities used by ICE, the York County Prison in Pennsylvania, stating that DHS ‘has made it difficult, if not impossible, to meet the constitutional requirements of providing adequate health care to inmates that have a serious need for that care.’ The article stated that, since 2004, 62 immigration detainees had died while in ICE custody, and that ICE declined to release any information about these deaths.”
Actually, in response to a congressional inquiry, the ICE reported that “since fiscal year 2004, 69 immigration detainees had died while in its custody,” but the agency “did not disclose names or other identifying information for those 69 detainees.”
The ACLU says the DHS and ICE have given it the runaround. The Office of the Inspector General claimed, among other things, that the ACLU “had not ‘adequately demonstrated a particular urgency to inform the public regarding the subject matter’ of the request.”