CBP Officials Are Blaming The Two Deaths Of Undocumented Migrants In One Week On Health Issues
While the news may have shifted toward President Donald Trump’s impeachment and the wildfires in California, the immigration crisis is still very much a prevalent issue here in the U.S. and in Mexico. As the U.S. continues to enforce its “Remain in Mexico” policy, which requires asylum seekers to go back to Mexico after they have filed their asylum application and await their hearing, Mexico insists they are protecting those undocumented people in their country. However, undocumented people who are living around the border as they wait for their asylum hearing say conditions in Mexico are not good and unsafe. The situation in the U.S. isn’t all that better.
In just one week, two undocumented people have died while in border patrol custody. They were both being detained by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Tuscon, Arizona.
The first unfortunate story comes out of Arizona where a 49-year-old Mexican national died on Oct. 21of an alleged pre-existing heart condition, CBP said in a Tuesday statement, according to The Hill. As of this publishing, the man has yet to be named and no press release statement appears on the CBP website.
Just a couple of days later, on Oct. 26, a 33-year-old Mexican woman died while also being detained by the CBP in Tuscon. According to the Tucson Sentinel, the woman “was found unconscious at an intersection near Tubac, Ariz., two weeks ago.” She succumbed to her condition at a Tucson hospital on Saturday morning.
Both deaths appear to be unrelated to their treatment within CBP custody but instead alleged health causes as officials stated.
In the case of the 33-year-old woman, according to the Tucson Sentinel, “the deputy was responding to a 911 call reported that a woman was passed out at an intersection,” Meredith Mingledorff, a spokeswoman for CBP told the newspaper. “She was taken to a Tucson hospital where she was found to have injuries consistent with severe dehydration.”
There’s not much more information regarding the 49-year-old Mexican national who died of a heart condition. CBP officials said in a statement, according to The Hill, “U.S. Customs and Border Protection is saddened to report a 49-year-old man from Mexico was pronounced deceased Monday morning in a Southern Arizona hospital. Our condolences are with his family.”
These two deaths in one week are just the latest in a string of recent deaths of undocumented people in CBP and ICE custody.
On Oct. 16, Roylan Hernandez-Diaz, a 43-year-old man from Cuba died after he allegedly committed suicide at the Richwood Correctional Center in Louisiana. Then on Oct. 2, Nebane Abienwi, a 37-year-old Cameroon male national died under ICE custody at the Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center where “he was undergoing treatment for a brain hemorrhage since Sept. 26,” ICE said in a statement. According to ICE, Abienwi began “experiencing a hypertensive event in the middle of the night” and “began immediate treatment upon arrival.”
It’s unclear how many people have died in CBP or ICE custody because each death is tracked differently in every fiscal year.
Each department handles its own numbers, along with separating by gender and age group (children or adults). It’s also challenging to get an exact number because they track them under their fiscal year which begins in October. Some news outlets report that 24 undocumented people died within the 2018-2019 fiscal year. The Tuscon Sentinial reports that 12 undocumented people died in 2019 alone. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) is also keeping track of deaths that occur while undocumented people are being detained.
When someone dies in government custody, they typically give out the same statement, which is: “ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody. While any death in ICE custody is unfortunate, fatalities in ICE custody are exceedingly rare. Statistically, fatalities in ICE custody occur at a small fraction of the national average for detained populations in federal or state custody.”
Immigration advocates stress that undocumented people are being detained inhumanely and are living in dire conditions.
Medical personnel and legal teams have expressed that they have witnessed terrible conditions that undocumented people live in each day.
Earlier this year, Victoria López, a Senior Staff Attorney, with the American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project said that they are keeping track of their reports about how undocumented people are being treated by these government agencies. “Immigration detention poses life-threatening health and safety risks for the tens of thousands of people who are locked up across the country,” she stated. “These abuses are not only a problem with ICE. The Border Patrol operates a system of jails where migrants are detained, typically in the nation’s border regions. These jails are notoriously known as ‘hieleras,’ or iceboxes, because of the frigid temperatures inside of the cells. The conditions in these cells are so unsafe that a lawsuit was filed in 2015 to force the agency to meet basic constitutional standards.”