ICE Ends Fiscal Year 2020 with its Highest Death Toll in 15 Years

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Washington, DC — On the last day of Fiscal Year 2020, Silky Shah, Executive Director of Detention Watch Network, issued the following statement in response to the 21 deaths that have occured in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody throughout the year:

“The tragic death toll for FY 2020 is the highest since FY 2005. People are losing their loved ones to an immigration detention system that simply does not need to exist.  

A wide array of sources — including whistleblower Dawn Wooten at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia and the Department of Homeland Security’s own Office of Inspector General — have documented the poor medical care and ongoing physical and mental abuse immigrants face in immigration detention. Deaths in ICE custody are a feature, not a bug, the immigration detention system is inhumane to its core.

And now with longer stays in detention for many people subjected to the cruel system and a six month pandemic that shows no signs of relief, we — community members, members of Congress, and decision makers at every level — must take action to save lives. Members of Congress must dramatically cut funding to ICE’s $8.4 billion dollar budget that only proves that more money does not fix a fundamentally broken and unjust system. Local officials must reject ICE detention in their community and instead invest in programs that support the collective well-being of their residents and not profit off of the suffering of immigrants. And lastly, we must, as a nation, heed the call to #FreeThemAll. Simply put, people navigating their immigration case should be able to do so with their families and in community not behind bars in immigration detention and for those that need support, they can access it through community-based groups. 

This tragic loss of life should not be reduced to just an ‘alarm bell,’ but rather a call to action — we must abolish immigration detention.”

Recent reports on fatal medical neglect in immigration detention:


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 on Twitter @DetentionWatch.