First Death in Immigration Detention Under the Trump Administration as the White House Looks to Expand a System Riddled with Abuse

For Immediate Release: 
Friday, March 17, 2017
As the death toll rises in detention, immigrant rights groups demand accountability and transparency

Washington, DC — Immigrant rights organizations, Congreso de Jornaleros, Detention Watch Network and Southern Poverty Law Center demand an immediate investigation into the death of Roger Rayson. Rayson, 47, died earlier this week while in the custody of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after being detained at LaSalle Detention Center in Louisiana. This tragedy marks the fourth death to occur at LaSalle in the past 15 months and the fourth in ICE’s fiscal year 2017 -- a fact that ICE inaccurately reported on their news release when announcing Rayson’s death.

“It is appalling that this is the fourth death to occur at LaSalle in a little over year. Furthermore, ICE’s complete lack of care and competency in accurately reporting the number of deaths to have occurred in their custody is shocking,” said Fernando Lopez, Congreso de Jornaleros. “ICE continues to prove how reckless and mismanaged they are. We are committed to holding ICE accountable to their rising death toll in the pursuit of ending immigration detention completely.”

The LaSalle detention center where Rayson died is operated by The GEO Group Inc., a notorious private prison company that has a well-documented track record of abuse, mismanagement and neglect. The passing of Rayson brings ICE’s total death count to 168 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.

“This death is sadly consistent with GEO’s and ICE’s abominable track record in caring for detainees in their custody. Not only does LaSalle exemplify an egregious pattern of failed medical care, but this particular facility also has the disgraceful distinction of having the some of lowest rates of legal representation and parole granted, coupled with some of the highest numbers of people subject to prolonged detention in the country,” said Lisa Graybill, deputy legal director for Southern Poverty Law Center. “Civil detention is not supposed to be a death sentence, and not another taxpayer dollar should go to a private prison company like GEO that has proven itself unwilling or unable to meet minimum standards of care.”

This death comes the same week that Trump requested Congressional approval for a $3 billion supplemental budget to significantly increase the number of people locked up in detention centers and dramatically expand the deportation force. With detention already at a historic high, Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda will come at the expense of immigrant lives and taxpayer’s wallets if approved by Congress.

“We are outraged by the disregard for human life. We are already seeing the impact of record high detention numbers, as people are leaving detention centers in body bags, yet, ICE continuously refuses to meet demands for transparency. Trump’s plan to expand an already deadly detention system will only further exacerbate the abuse and inhumane conditions that have proven to have fatal consequences,” said Danny Cendejas, organizing director at Detention Watch Network. “We are resolute in our demand that ICE publicly release the findings from their investigations into detention centers deaths, which they have still failed to do for the 13 deaths that occurred in their custody last year. And we call on Congress to resist Trump’s agenda and deny funding for ICE -- an agency with blood on its hands.”


Congreso de Jornaleros The Congress of Day Laborers is an organization of immigrant workers and families founded by the day laborers who helped rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It is a hub for immigrants across the Southeast region, and a leadership pipeline for hundreds of immigrant workers and families into public life and social movement participation. For more information, visit

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.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society.  Read more about conditions in the LaSalle Detention Center in SPLC’s Shadow Prisons report. For more information, see