Things That Matter

22 Immigrants Have Died In ICE Detention Two Years Into The Trump Administration

At least 22 immigrants have died in the custody of U.S. immigration enforcement in the two years since President Donald Trump took office. According to an investigative report from NBC News, it found that a number of deaths in U.S. detention centers included individuals from places like Vietnam and Mexico. The report comes out less than a month after two high profile deaths of immigrant children died under U.S. custody.

The report shows that some had been longtime legal residents and half were not yet 45 years old.

While issues within U.S. detention centers predate President Trump, he’s expanded U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enforcement priorities that include the arrest of and separation of many children from families. These new measures have put vulnerable immigrants at risk, especially younger groups of people. The 22 deaths in the past two years are among the 188 detainee deaths in ICE custody since 2003 when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was formed shortly after 9/11.

The 22 deaths include at least one transgender woman, Roxana Hernandez, who died within two weeks of being taken into U.S. custody.

Hernandez had traveled from Honduras to the U.S.-Mexico border, where she sought asylum as part of a migrant caravan. Within two weeks in ICE custody, she was transported to four different immigration centers. She was transported from California to Arizona, then to Texas and lastly to New Mexico, where she was sent to the hospital and died shortly after. The death ws original blamed on lack of medical care for her HIV-positive diagnosis.

This past December, ICE released reports on six people who died in 2018 that included Hernandez. The report showed that Hernandez had been dehydrated, starving and feverish upon her death. An independent autopsy disputes the report and shows she likely died due to dehydration and that her body showed signs of “physical abuse.”

A request for the death reviews of all 22 who have passed away has not been completed by ICE. This has made it hard to completely analyze what’s going on at detention centers.

During testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 20, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said that “one death is too many,” and DHS detention centers have “some of the highest standards in the world.” Yet the new report reveals a detention system filled with multiple violations and problems. Just in the last year, the DHS Office of Inspector General issued three reports finding bad treatment and inadequate oversight in ICE detention centers.

One death was that of a legal resident, Huy Chi Tran, 47, who arrived from Vietnam in 1984. After ICE got Tran in May 2018 from an Arizona prison, where he was serving time for disorderly conduct, he died of a heart attack. ICE records revealed that Tran suffered from schizophrenia that may have contributed to his death.

“You’ll see someone who is clearly an asylum seeker who came into custody with a serious medical condition, whether a heart condition or otherwise, and you have to ask, ‘Why is this person in jail?'” said Heidi Altman, director of policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center told NBC. “There’s no reason for it.”

Under Trump, the population of the immigrant prison network has risen 30 percent over the average under Obama and twice that under George W. Bush.

While the number of 22 remains below the peak of 32 deaths in 2004, the annual number of deaths, 10 in 2017 and 12 in 2018, has jumped under President Trump. During the Obama administration, the numbers rose and fell from 10 in 2008 to five in 2012. But deaths rose up to 12 in President Obama’s last full year in office, as the number of detainees grew. ICE held an average of about 42,000 people a day in it’s more than 200 detention centers, which was 30 percent more than under President Obama and double than President Bush.

The report shows that the rise in the number of detainees had more to do with the increase in ICE arrests across the U.S. than from actual people crossing the border. The shift in arrests and number of those detained has most likely attributed to these deaths.

If the Trump administration wants to continue making immigration one of its main priorities, they’re going to have to improve conditions in detention centers across the country. It’s going to have to start with better medical screenings of children and an increase in mental health checks on those incarcerated.


READ: These Tweets Show The Impact Trump’s Government Shutdown Is Having On American Families

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Alejandro Mayorkas Is The First Latino And Immigrant To Be Named Secretary Of The Department Of Homeland Security

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Alejandro Mayorkas Is The First Latino And Immigrant To Be Named Secretary Of The Department Of Homeland Security

Alejandro Mayorkas is the first Latino and the first immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas is Cuban-born and was one of the original architects of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Alejandro Mayorkas is the first Latino and immigrant to be confirmed as the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Secretary Mayorkas is inheriting a Trump-era DHS and is immediately getting to work to rectify issues that the Biden administration has highlighted. Two of the most pressing issues are heading up a task force to reunite migrant families who were separated by the previous administration and reviewing the “Remain in Mexico” policy.

“Remain in Mexico” is a policy that the Trump administration created and enforced that sent migrants to Mexico to await their asylum cases. The policy has been criticized both by U.S. and international politicians as a humanitarian issue.

It isn’t Mayorkas’ first time working for DHS.

Sec. Mayorkas was the deputy secretary of DHS from December 2013 – October 2016 under President Barack Obama. During that time, Mayorkas was crucial in responding to the 2013 – 14 Ebola virus epidemic and 2015 – 16 Zika virus epidemic. Mayorkas is ready to come back to the department and to bring back what he sees are the department’s mission.

“DHS bears an extraordinary weight on behalf of the American people, the weight of grave challenges seen and unseen,” Sec. Mayorkas said in a statement. “It is the greatest privilege of my life to return to the Department to lead the men and women who dedicate their talent and energy to the safety and security of our nation. I will work every day to ensure that they have the tools they need to execute their missions with honor and integrity. The mission of the Department of Homeland Security is to safeguard the American people, our homeland, and our values. The United States is a welcoming and empathetic nation, one that finds strength in its diversity. I pledge to defend and secure our country without sacrificing these American values.”

Mayorkas is no stranger to working on America’s immigration system.

Mayorkas is one of the original architects of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which is at stake because of the previous administration. The Biden administration has made a promise to preserve DACA and to create a pathway to citizenship to the 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S.

President Biden has introduced legislation to reform the current immigration system. The legislation has a timeframe for all undocumented people in the U.S. to become citizens if they follow certains steps and meet certain criteria.

While Mayorkas got bipartisan support in the Senate confirmation, some Republicans did not like his work in immigration. Sen. Marco Rubio, a fellow Cuban, voted to opposed Mayorkas.

“Not only has Mayorkas pledged to undo the sensible protections put in place by the Trump Administration that ended the dangerous policy of catch and release, but his nomination is further evidence that the Biden Administration intends to pursue a radical immigration agenda,” Sen. Rubio said in a statement.

READ: President Biden Introduces Legislation To Create Pathway To Citizenship For 11 Million Undocumented People

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ICE Has Gone Rogue As It Continues With Deportations Despite Several Policy Changes

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ICE Has Gone Rogue As It Continues With Deportations Despite Several Policy Changes

Long before taking office, President Biden vowed to undo many of the Trump administration’s most cruel and inhumane immigration policies within days of taking office. But despite several executive orders, Biden’s policies have met several roadblocks and swift changes in immigration policy have yet to arrive.

One major roadblock to ending deportations has been a federal judge that placed a hold on a Biden’s executive order and the other has been a “rogue agency” that’s continued several of Trump’s immigration policies.

Migrant rights advocates are calling ICE a “rogue agency” as it faces new allegations of abuse.

Although President Biden has outlined his immigration policy and installed his new head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – which oversees ICE – the White House still does not have full control of ICE, which faces multiple allegations of human rights abuses and allegations that it has disproportionately targeted Black migrants.

The agency also continues to deport immigrants who don’t fit the categories approved for deportation by DHS – even those who had been taken off deportation flights just hours before.

Many deportees are claiming that ICE has stepped up its torture of detainees.

Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Several migrant rights groups – Freedom for Immigrants, Al Otro Lado and Advocates for Immigrants Rights – published affidavits from Cameroonian asylum seekers who they said were tortured by being forced to approve their own deportations. The asylum seekers described being forced to the floor and having their fingers inked and pressed on to deportation documents they had refused to sign.

According to The Guardian, one Cameroonian asylum seeker described being brought into a room with darkened windows where he was forced by agents to put his fingerprint on a document in lieu of a signature, waiving his rights to further legal process before deportation.

“I tried to stand up because of the force that they were using on me, and they tripped me,” HT said. “I fell on the floor; I kept my hands under my body. I held my hands tight at waist level so they could not have them. Five of the Ice officers and one of the officers in green … joined them. They pressed me down and said that I needed to give them my finger for the fingerprint.”

One man was put on a flight to Haiti even though he’s not Haitian and had never been to that country.

And despite new directives from DHS and the Biden administration, ICE continues to carry out deportation flights containing people who fit none of the current criteria for deportation.

Just last week, Paul Pierrilus, a 40-year-old financial consultant from New York, who had never been to Haiti and is not a Haitian citizen, was taken off a deportation flight at the last moment after the intervention of his local congressman, Mondaire Jones. But just days later, ICE put him on another plane and sent him to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Jones told the Guardian: “Ice is a rogue agency that must be brought to heel. There is no world in which an agency under the control of the leader of the executive branch should continue to deport people after the president of the United States signed an executive order halting deportations for 100 days.”

However, the Biden administration has also moved forward on its own with many deportations.

It’s true that a federal judge ordered the Biden administration not to enforce a 100-day pause on deportations, but the ruling did not require the government to schedule them. However, the administration has moved forward on deportations for hundreds of immigrants within the past two weeks.

It’s unclear how many of those people are considered national security or public safety threats or had recently crossed the border illegally, the priority under new guidance that DHS issued to enforcement agencies.

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