Lumpkin, Georgia — Immigrant rights organizations, El Refugio Ministry, Georgia Detention Watch, Project South, Southern Poverty Law Center and Detention Watch Network are demanding an immediate investigation and public release of the findings of the death of Efrain Romero De La Rosa. De La Rosa, 40, originally from Puebla, Mexico, died on July 10th after being in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody at the Stewart Detention Center operated by the notorious private prison company, CoreCivic, in Georgia. ICE is reporting the death as an apparent suicide.
“The death of De La Rosa is yet another tragic loss of life inside the walls of the Stewart Detention Center — immigration detention is a death sentence,” said Amilcar Valencia, Executive Director of El Refugio Ministry. “We express our deepest condolences to De La Rosa’s family and affirm our resolve to fight to end to immigration detention in his name.”
De La Rosa is the third death and second suicide at Stewart Detention Center in 15 months, following the death of Yulio Castro-Garrido in January 2018, and suicide of Jean Jimenez-Joseph, who spent 19 days in solitary confinement prior to his death in May 2017.
“The deaths and systematic abuse at Stewart are not only tragic, but infuriating,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, Legal and Advocacy Director at Project South. “We have repeatedly documented the horrors at Stewart and called for its closure — how many more people have to die before the government shuts down this horrendous place?”
Since 2003, 184 people have died in immigrant detention, De La Rosa’s passing marks the ninth death to occur in ICE immigrant detention in fiscal year 2018. Recent investigations into deaths in immigration detention, Code Red: The Fatal Consequences of Dangerously Substandard Medical Care 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 has contributed to numerous deaths, which could have been a factor in the death of De La Rosa.
“People are losing their lives in ICE custody,” said Kevin Caron of Georgia Detention Watch. “ICE’s rising death toll and sustained and well-documented track record of abuse should not only shake you to your core, but propel you into action.”
De La Rosa’s death comes as the demand to #AbolishICE continues to gain momentum amongst communities nationwide and on Capitol Hill.
“The alarming death toll in ICE custody underscores that the immigration enforcement system is plagued by egregiously poor conditions, a lack of accountability and a culture of violence and secrecy,” said Gabriela Marquez-Benitez, Senior Organizer at Detention Watch Network. “The evidence is indisputable; Members of Congress must defund ICE and terminate all of its functions to end the targeting, incarcerating, surveilling and exhiling of immigrants.”
El Refugio is a ministry of hospitality and visitation that walks alongside families and immigrants detained at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA. El Refugio promotes education and social witness for advocacy by introducing US citizens to the injustices of our system of detention and deportation.
Georgia Detention Watch (GDW) is a coalition of organizations and individuals that advocates alongside immigrants to end the inhumane and unjust detention and law enforcement policies and practices directed against immigrant communities in our state.
Project South is a Southern-based leadership development organization that creates spaces for movement building. We work with communities pushed forward by the struggle– to strengthen leadership and to provide popular political and economic education for personal and social transformation. We build relationships with organizations and networks across the US and global South to inform our local work and to engage in bottom-up movement building for social and economic justice.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy, the SPLC works toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality. Through its Southeast Immigration Freedom Initiative (SIFI), SPLC provides pro bono legal representation to detained immigrants at five of the largest immigrant detention centers in the Deep South.
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.