The death toll in ICE custody rises, groups demand an immediate investigation

For Immediate Release: 
Saturday, April 6, 2019

Florence, AZ — Members of the Defund Hate coalition and local immigrant rights groups are demanding an immediate investigation and public release of the findings related to the death of Abel Reyes-Clemente. Reyes-Clemente, 54, died on April 3 while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody after being detained at the Florence Service Processing Center.

“We call for an immediate investigation into the medical care that Reyes-Clemente received in ICE custody,” said Lourdes Ortiz, Advocate for the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee and member of the Defund Hate Coalition. "ICE repeatedly puts lives in jeopardy with inadequate medical care, including delayed attention, that has contributed to numerous deaths in their custody. Simply put, immigration detention is deadly.”

Reyes-Clemente was reportedly demonstrating symptoms of the flu three days prior to his passing. He is the fourth person to die in ICE custody in fiscal year 2019.

“The immigration detention system is plagued by egregiously poor conditions, a lack of accountability and a culture of secrecy,” said Kathryn Johnson, Policy Advocacy Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee and member of the Defund Hate Coalition. “The evidence is conclusive: immigration detention is an unjust, inhumane and abusive system.”

Since 2003, 189 people have died in immigrant detention. 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.

“News of this tragic passing comes as Trump continues his racist propaganda tour along the border, making false claims of a crisis in order to justify and ramp up his anti-immigrant agenda,” said Adrian Reyna, Membership Director of United We Dream and member of the Defund Hate Coalition. “How many more lives need to be lost to the cruel immigration enforcement system before Congress holds these agencies accountable?”

For over a year, the Defund Hate Coalition has advocated for members of Congress and state and local officials to reject Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda, including by defunding the agencies that are militarizing, incarcerating, and surveilling immigrant communities.

“Members of Congress must fight to protect the immigrant community from detention and deportation by rejecting Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget proposal immediately and instead call for significant cuts in funding to ICE and CBP and meaningful restrictions on their authority to reallocate funds Congress appropriates — these agencies are deadly,” said Mary Small, Policy Director of Detention Watch Network and member of the Defund Hate Coalition.


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.

DMSC is a community of liberation activists who work in solidarity with detained and liberated migrants who fight to free the border from criminalization and mass incarceration. Together we challenge the inhumanity of the U.S. migrant detention system, its practices, and policies, by holding a visible presence and raising awareness of abuses in our communities. Follow @dmscelpaso