Advocates across the country are demanding ICE be held accountable for deaths in immigrant detention

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, October 30, 2017

Washington, DC — For the second year in a row, Detention Watch Network (DWN) and immigrant rights advocates nationwide are marking the Latin American holiday, Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, with national actions. DWN members will host at least 15 vigils and actions from DC to Los Angeles starting Saturday, October 28 and concluding on November 6. The mobilization is in response to the growing number of immigrant deaths in detention, as the Trump administration looks to massively increase an already bloated and unnecessary system plagued with egregiously poor conditions and a lack of accountability and transparency that results in system-wide abuses.

“The national actions come during an unprecedented moment of unrelenting attacks by an explicitly anti-immigrant and racist administration,” said Danny Cendejas, organizing director of Detention Watch Network. “Now an already oppressive, inhumane and deadly system of detention has become even bigger, less transparent and less accountable.”

Since 2003, 176 people have died in immigrant detention – this past fiscal year alone, there has been 12 deaths in detention centers. Recent investigations into deaths in immigration detention, Fatal Neglect: How ICE Ignores Deaths in Detention and Systemic Indifference: Dangerous and Substandard Medical Care in US Immigration Detention, have found that inadequate medical care at detention centers has contributed to numerous deaths.  

“The shameful death toll amassed by ICE exposes their inability to guarantee the safety and health of people in their custody,” said Cendejas. “We demand ICE conduct an immediate review of the 22 deaths that occurred in ICE custody in fiscal years 2016 and 2017, and publicly release the findings no later than December 1, 2017.”

This has been an ongoing call from advocates as ICE continues to refuse to meet demands for transparency. Just this spring, ICE requested to destroy a range of records including regarding deaths in their custody.

“ICE is an agency that regularly lies and actively hides information from the public,” added Cendejas. “It’s long past time they be held accountable for their shocking disregard for human life.”

Under Trump, 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. As funding negotiations for fiscal year 2018 are still underway, money is one of the only barriers to Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda.  

“The consequences of Congress rubber stamping Trump’s anti-immigrant policies are dire,” said Cendejas. “Our elected officials must stand with immigrant communities. It’s time to stop wasting taxpayer dollars on the abusive and deadly immigration enforcement system; the lives of our loved ones and our collective future are at stake.”


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.