Washington, DC – Marking the Latin American holiday, Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, Detention Watch Network (DWN) held a funeral procession from the White House to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Headquarters to bring awareness to the untimely deaths of immigrants in government custody. Recent investigations into deaths in immigration detention have found that inadequate medical care at detention centers has contributed to numerous deaths. The most recent death occurred just one week ago, when Olubunmi Toyin Joshua died on October 24th after being detained for over eight months at the Rolling Plains Detention Center in Haskell, Texas.
The D.C. Funeral Procession, which was part of DWN’s National Day of the Dead Actions from October 26 – November 4, included directly impacted individuals who shared their experiences of being in detention and an altar constructed in front of ICE Headquarters to honor the lives of the 165 people who have died in its custody since 2003.
"I was locked up in Eloy Detention Center for almost two years, and I know how dangerous and detrimental the system is,” said Alejandra Pablos, Field Coordinator for the Virginia Latina Advocacy Network. “I was scared for my life and for the lives of the other women. I saw a young mother leave Eloy in a body bag. No one should ever be denied their dignity and that is why I am proud to be here today and to be participating in this action."
This last year alone, there have been 11 deaths in detention centers at the hands of ICE. The shameful record of deaths amassed by ICE exposes their inability to guarantee the safety and health of people in their custody.
“ICE must be held accountable when someone in dies in its custody. We demand ICE conduct an investigation into the 10 deaths that have occurred this year and publicly release the findings no later than January 30, 2017,” said Danny Cendejas, DWN’s Organizing Director. “Facilities where people have died in detention must be shut down as a first step towards ending the inhumane detention system in its entirety. This starts with shutting down LaSalle Detention Center in Louisiana where there have been three deaths this year.”
The national actions come during an unprecedented moment of record-breaking detention numbers, with over 40,000 people behind bars. “This gross expansion of immigrant incarceration raises the already existing threat level to immigrant lives,” said Silky Shah, Co-Director of DWN. “The likelihood of increased abuse and death within a system that has already proven it’s incapable for caring for people in its custody is deeply concerning. ICE must immediately rollback the expansion and stop the deaths.”
Sponsoring Organizations: Alliance 4 Citizenship, United We Dream, SOA Watch, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, We Belong Together, Southeast Immigrant Rights Network, Enlace and Color of Change
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 www.detentionwatchnetwork.org. Follow @DetentionWatch.