Things That Matter

He Was In ICE Detention For Five Months, Now This Cuban Migrant Is Dead And His Family Wants Answers

The deaths of migrants in US government custody have sparked outrage and cast a spotlight on the treatment of immigrants detained by authorities. But, despite the outrage and grief, little seems to be being done to improve the conditions immigrants are being held in. 

In fact, recent reports indicate that the Trump administration is actually moving to make life for migrants even more miserable (and dangerous) while in  government custody. From not providing for basic sanitary needs to withholding critical vaccinations and even deporting migrants in need of life-saving medical care, this administration is putting countless lives at risk. 

Given the administration’s contempt of migrants coming to the US to seek asylum or simply better opportunities, the deaths of migrants are not at all surprising. Although they’re largely an avoidable tragedy — until Trump took office deaths of migrants in US custody were exceedingly rare — the situation in detention centers is likely to get worse before it improves. 

At least eight people have died in ICE custody at adult detention centers this year, according to information released by ICE and compiled by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Here are those who we’ve lost since January 2019:

Roylan Hernandez-Diaz, 43, Cuba

ICE officials confirmed the death of Roylan Hernandez-Diaz on Wednesday. The 43-year-old man was being held in an isolation area known as “the pit” at the Richwood Correctional Center, a private facility operated by the firm LaSalle Corrections.

“The preliminary cause of death appears to be self-inflicted strangulation, but the case is currently under investigation,” ICE said in a statement to El Nuevo Herald.

Hernandez-Diaz, who first entered ICE custody in May after being apprehended at the El Paso Port of Entry, feared being deported to Cuba. The man recently appeared before an immigration court, where relatives said he told guards that he would leave the detention center “free or dead.”

Hernandez-Diaz’s cell mates told the publication that he once organized a hunger strike to protest inhumane conditions at the detention center. “They were hopeful that they would be freed or at least released on parole, but months went by and they were still detained,” one relative said of the strike. “In Louisiana, the detainees face very bad conditions. They are treated badly, and the authorities don’t believe that they are politically persecuted.”

Abel Reyes-Clemente, 54, Mexico

While in ICE custody at an Arizona corrections center, Reyes-Clemente displayed signs of the flu and was “placed into medical observation” on April 1, ICE said. Two days later, facility personnel found him around 6 a.m., unresponsive and not breathing.

This case is a particular reminder of the cruelty of the administration’s policies. Reyes-Clemente likely died of complications related to the flu yet it was just recently announced that the government will not provide flu vaccines to migrants for the upcoming flu season.

Simratpal Singh, 21, India

The Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner listed suicide as the manner of death and hanging as the primary cause of death on its website. Autopsy results have not yet been released. 

Unidentified Man, 40, Mexico

The man died at Las Palmas Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, after being apprehended by CBP agents for illegal re-entry early Sunday morning, according to a CBP news release. Hours after being apprehended, the unnamed man was evaluated by medical personnel at the Border Patrol’s processing facility near Paso Del Norte Port of Entry.

CBP said the man was transported to the medical center after being diagnosed with flu-like symptoms, liver failure and renal failure. He died later that day.

Johana Medina Leon, 25, El Salvador

Credit: DIVERSIDAD SIN FRONTERAS / Facebook

The cause of death for Medina Leon, the asylum seeker who died on June 1, remains unclear. Like Roxana Hernandez, a transgender woman who died in ICE custody last summer, Medina Leon was diagnosed with HIV while she was detained.

Medina Leon, known to her friends as “Joa,” became ill while detained at the Otero County Processing Center, a private detention center in New Mexico where the ACLU and the Santa Fe Dreamer Project recently alleged poor treatment of, and “unconscionable conditions,” for LGBTQ immigrants.

Unidentified Woman, 40, Honduras

The woman, who was not identified, died shortly after being apprehended after crossing the border.

The woman, who crossed the border without authorization in Eagle Pass, Texas, at about 6:20 a.m., collapsed about 25 minutes later at the Eagle Pass South Station. In a statement, Border Patrol said agents and officers administered medical care until emergency medical services arrived at 6:55 a.m. She was taken to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The tragedy marked the second time in less than 36 hours that a person had died immediately following their perilous migration from their home in Central America, through Mexico and across the southwest border.

Yimi Alexis Balderramos-Torres, 30, Honduras

Balderramos-Torres had previously been apprehended by immigration officials in El Paso, Texas, on May 17, according to a statement released by ICE. The man was accompanied by his son when he was encountered by Border Patrol on May 17, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

Balderramos-Torres had been sent back to Mexico under a Trump administration program that requires Central American immigrants to wait outside the US as their asylum cases make their way through the immigration courts. On May 27, Balderramos-Torres again crossed the border without authorization and was picked up by local police in the US during a traffic stop.

On June 30, Balderramos-Torres was found “unresponsive,” and medical officials at the facility were unable to revive him. He was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead Sunday morning. A cause of death is pending as officials conduct an autopsy.

Pedro Arriago-Santoya, 44, Mexico

Pedro Arriago-Santoya was awaiting deportation at the Stewart Detention Facility in Lumpkin prior to his death at an area hospital.

Medical staff at a hospital in Columbus determined the man’s preliminary cause of death as cardiopulmonary arrest, followed by multi-organ system failure; endocarditis, an infection in the heart’s inner lining; dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease; and respiratory failure, ICE said in a statement

In custody since April, Arriago-Santoya told immigration authorities he felt stomach pain on July 20, leading a nurse practitioner to send him via ambulance to a hospital in Cuthbert. Medical staff suspected he had gall bladder disease, ICE said, and, the next day, sent him to the hospital where he died waiting for surgery consultation.

Marvin Antonio González, 32, El Salvador

Credit: Jose Cabezas / Reuters

Like many Salvadoran migrants before them, Marvin Gonzalez and his eight-year-old daughter Joselyn set off from their farm surrounded by corn and sugarcane one morning in early July with dreams of better lives in the United States. 

Gonzalez, 32, planned to reunite the girl with her mother in North Carolina, and later send for his current wife from El Salvador. 

The two made it across the U.S. border in late July. Then their luck turned. After they were detained in El Paso, Gonzalez died from heart-related causes that seemed to have flared up suddenly.

Norma Palacios, 23, the wife of the younger Gonzalez, said she had planned to eventually join her husband in the United States, bringing along their daughter Tifany, but had changed her mind.

“Our dream was to be together there, but now with what happened, I don’t have the courage to go alone,” she said in an interview with Reuters.

Roberto Rodriguez-Espinoza, 37, Mexico

Staff at the jail saw Rodriguez-Espinoza “acting confused” on Sept. 7 and transferred him to Northwestern Medicine Woodstock Hospital in Woodstock for evaluation, ICE said. He was transferred to Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital the next day, where he was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage.

He was transferred to Central DuPage for a neurosurgery consultation and became unresponsive during a neurological exam, ICE said.

Many of these deaths were likely preventable. Human Rights Watch asked for an independent medical analysis of 15 recent deaths in immigration detention; in eight cases, subpar medical care contributed or led to the fatalities. The same is true for 23 of the 52 deaths in immigration detention for which we have such analysis since 2010.

ICE has dramatically expanded the number of people in its dangerous system, including particularly vulnerable people like children and pregnant women. 

By locking up people who aren’t a flight risk or a threat to public safety, the US guarantees a ballooning, abusive, and expensive system, despite the existence of more cost-effective and humane alternatives to detention. 

There Is Chaos At The Mexico-Guatemala Border As The Next Migrant Caravan Tries To Enter Mexico And AMLO Pushes Back

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There Is Chaos At The Mexico-Guatemala Border As The Next Migrant Caravan Tries To Enter Mexico And AMLO Pushes Back

Jose Torres / Getty

Last week news broke that another migrant caravan was forming in Honduras, in an attempt to safely cross Guatemala and Mexico on the way to the United States. Immediately, the reports were met with a mix of panic and indignity among Central American leaders who vowed to stop the caravan before reaching the US-Mexican border.

And it looks like that plan has been put into motion. Although Guatemala allowed many migrants through its territory, upon reaching the border with Mexico, many migrants were turned away, or worse.

A caravan of nearly 3,000 people has been met with force as they’ve tried to cross into Mexico from Guatemala.

Credit: Jose Torres / Getty

According to Guatemala, at least 4,000 people entered from Honduras since Wednesday, making for one of the biggest surges since three Central American governments signed agreements with the Trump administration giving them more of the responsibility for dealing with migrants. Even though these exact same countries are ill-equipped to handle the influx of migrants – let alone fight back against their country’s own poverty, violence, and corruption that force many migrants to flee in the first place.

Mexican government officials ordered them to block entry into the country. 

Mexico’s National Immigration Institute issued a statement saying it would detain any migrants without legal status, and deport them if they couldn’t legalize their status. 

Video footage showed scattered groups of migrants throwing rocks at a few members of the National Guard militarized police who were on the banks of the river attempting to thwart illegal crossings, while hundreds of others ran past into Mexico.

Hopes were raised on Friday after Mexican President AMLO announced that there were 4,000 jobs along the southern border available to migrants.

The day after AMLO’s statement regarding possible job opportunities, more than 1,000 migrants attempted to cross into Mexico. According to the country’s National Institute of Migration (INM), each migrant was interviewed and told about opportunities with two government development programs. which will be implemented along the southern border and in both El Salvador and Honduras.

Meanwhile, as migrants waited to be processed for entry into Mexico, a loudspeakers warned migrants against applying for asylum in the US. However, many migrants are doubtful when it comes to Mexico’s offer of work.

“I don’t believe that. It is a lie,” one migrant told Al Jazeera. “They are just trying to find a means trap us and to debilitate the caravan.”

The violence at the Mexico-Guatemala border has left children separated from their families as crowds were sent fleeing from pepper spray.

Credit: Jeff Abbott / Flickr

As Mexican security forces launched tear gas and pepper spray into a crowd of migrants attempting to enter the country – hundreds were forced to flee. The ensuing chaos left children lost without their parents and mothers and fathers desperately searching for their children.

A Reuters witness spoke to at least two mothers said their children went missing amid the chaos, as the migrants on Mexican soil scattered in an attempt to avoid being detained by Mexican officials.

“We didn’t come to stay here. We just want to cross to the other side,” said Ingrid, 18, a Honduran migrant. “I don’t want to go back to my country because there is nothing there, just hunger.”

Many have harsh words for Mexico’s President AMLO – calling him a puppet and a coward.

Although most agree that every country has the right to enforce its own immigration laws, many are upset with AMLO for the way his administration has cracked down on Central American migrants. Many see the crackdown as little more than bowing to pressure from Trump – turning him into a puppet of the US.

So what should AMLO do when dealing with unauthorized migrants and pressure from a US President?

First, violence and attacks on migrants simply crossing territory should never be on the table. Second, AMLO’s administration should let the caravan reach the US-border and let the asylum process play out as it was meant to do under international law. Just because Trump wants AMLO to join him in breaking international norms, doesn’t mean he should.

But many doubt that will ever happen. Neither of these presidents, Trump nor AMLO, will change course to support legal asylum claims.

So what’s next? Will Mexico relent and agree to pay for Trump’s border wall? Don’t dismiss the idea, not when the Mexican president has so far carried out Trump’s every whim.

Hundreds Of Migrants Are Attempting To Form Another Caravan To The United States But Here’s Why Mexico Won’t Let Them Pass

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Hundreds Of Migrants Are Attempting To Form Another Caravan To The United States But Here’s Why Mexico Won’t Let Them Pass

@Delmar_Martinez / Twitter

Migrants often group together to form large groups for reasons of safety, child care, and increased presence during confrontations with police, gangs, and immigration agents. It’s these reasons that helped spur the large caravans of migrants that traveled from Central Mexico to the United States in 2018.

In 2018, the migrant caravans were a major talking point for conservative politicians who used them to instill fear in voters. However, few migrants actually made it to the US-Mexico border and those that did were turned away to await their asylum claims in Mexico. Now, thanks to new immigration agreements and unilateral pressure by the US, most migrants realize that their journey across Central American and Mexico won’t likely result in them successfully making it to the United States.

Hundreds of mostly Honduran migrants grouped together to try and form a caravan to help aide passage to the United States.

Credit: @Delmer_Martinez / Twitter

So far, according to reports, about 1,300 Honduran migrants have successfully crossed the border into Guatemala.

Guatemalan police officers were accompanied at the checkpoint by four agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Agent Alex Suárez told the AFP that ICE was there to train Guatemalan authorities in immigration control.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said Homeland Security personnel — ICE as well as Customs and Border Protection — are in Guatemala “providing advisory and capacity building support” to deal with irregular migration.

According to Guatemala’s new president, Mexico plans to contain the caravan before it’s able to make it to the US.

Credit: EqualityNow / Instagram

Mexico’s government is bracing for the arrival of hundreds of Central Americans on its southern border in coming days, an event likely to be closely monitored by the U.S. government, which has made curbing illegal immigration a priority.

Guatemala’s president said he had met with Mexico Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, who had told him that Mexico would not allow the caravan to advance into its territory.

“The Mexican government advised us that it is not going to let them pass … that it is going to use everything in its hands to keep them from passing,” Giammattei said. 

“We will warn those in the caravan that they are probably going to be able to arrive to the border (with Mexico), but from there on they are going to collide with a wall that they will not be able to penetrate and we believe many of them are going to give up.” 

Later, Mexico Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero, said Mexico would welcome those seeking asylum or protection and offer opportunities for those who wanted to enter legally and seek permission to work or study.

Giammattei said travel agreements between Central American nations required Guatemala to grant the migrants passage.

Credit: ZaraConZ / Instagram

In his first full day in office, Guatemala’s new president, Alejandro Giammattei, said the Hondurans would be allowed to enter Guatemala, which they must cross to reach Mexico and the United States.

“We cannot prevent people who have identification” from entering, Giammattei said. “We are going to ask for their papers from the parents of guardians in the caravan, and if they don’t have them they will be returned to Honduras. We have to protect the rights of children.”

Arriving in Guatemala chiefly via crossings on its northern border with Honduras, around 1,350 migrants had been registered entering legally by late morning, said Alejandra Mena, a spokeswoman for Guatemala’s National Migration Institute.

The US has put Mexico and Central American nations under pressure to accept a series of migration agreements that aim to shift the burden of dealing with asylum-seekers on to them, and away from the United States.

Credit: Department of Homeland Security

Most attempts at forming caravans in 2019 were broken up by police and the national guard in Mexico, which has come under increased U.S. pressure to prevent migrants from arriving at the U.S. border.

The prospects for any kind of caravan like the one in 2018, which involved thousands of people, appear remote. Many of the migrants from the 2018 caravan applied for asylum, something that is now difficult or impossible.

The U.S. has used a carrot-and-stick approach in bilateral agreements struck since July with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to deny people an opportunity to apply for asylum in the U.S. They are instead to be sent to Central America with an opportunity to ask for protection there.

“The truth is, it is going to be impossible for them to reach the United States,” said human rights activist Itsmania Platero. “The Mexican police have a large contingent and they are going to catch all the migrants without documents and they will be detained and returned to their home countries.”