Advocates Demand Answers from ICE on Alarming Number of Deaths in Detention Centers During 2016

For Immediate Release: 
Friday, December 16, 2016
As the death toll rises in detention, immigrant rights groups demand accountability and transparency

Washington, DC  Immigrant rights organizations, Detention Watch Network (DWN), Puente Arizona and Grassroots Leadership demand an immediate investigation before the end of the Obama Administration into the 13 deaths that occurred in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody in 2016. Advocates are demanding that ICE be held accountable, as two more lives were lost in immigration detention just last month. The ICE Office of Detention Oversight investigates each death in detention, but has refused to publish its findings, forcing immigrant advocates to go through a long Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process to get basic information. Currently it is unclear whether investigations into each death have been carried out at all.  

Raquel Calderon de Hidalgo, 36, died at the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) operated Eloy Detention Center (Eloy) in Arizona on November 27th and Esmerio Campos, 49, died at the GEO Group Inc. operated South Texas Detention Complex (Pearsall) in Texas on November 25th.

The passing of these individuals brings ICE’s total death count to 167 since 2003 -- a shameful record further exposing ICE’s inability to guarantee the safety and health of people in their custody. Recent investigations into deaths in immigration detention have found that inadequate medical care at detention centers has contributed to numerous deaths.  

At Eloy, Raquel Calderon de Hidalgo is the 15th person to die since 2003, making it by far the deadliest ICE detention facility in the country. Detention Watch Network and Puente Arizona were recently denied a request to visit Eloy which had   been scheduled for December 12th. ICE’s refusal to allow immigrant rights advocates to access the country’s deadliest detention center is extremely alarming. 

“The Eloy Detention Center has proven to be a dangerous place with the highest number of deaths in the country; our people are in danger and we fear for their lives” said Francisca Porchas, Organizing Director of Puente Movement. “Its time for these torture centers to be shut down once and for all.” 

"The South Texas Detention Center has been dogged by reports of verbal threats, sexual abuse, and abusive use of solitary confinement," said Cristina Parker, Immigration Programs Director for Grassroots Leadership. "The death at Pearsall should draw scrutiny from Congress and regulators, and ICE should move to prioritize release of immigrants in detention rather than maintaining and even increasing outrageously high detention rates."

“We are seeing the impact of record high detention numbers, as people are leaving facilities in body bags. ICE must immediately rollback the expansion, stop the deaths and end immigration detention,” said Danny Cendejas, organizing director at DWN. “We are resolute in our demand that ICE be held accountable for detention deaths. The two most recent deaths at Eloy and Pearsall underscore the urgent need for facilities where people have died in detention to be shut down as a first step towards ending the inhumane detention system in its entirety.”


Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the United States’ immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level to end immigration detention. Visit Follow @DetentionWatch.

Puente is a grassroots member-based migrant justice organization based in Phoenix, Arizona organizing to end all deportation and detention and for the dignity and self-determination of all migrant communities.

Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works to end prison profiteering and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education.