Over three days, two deaths take place in ICE detention

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, March 23, 2020
Calls for mass release grow as ICE’s record continues to be questioned

Washington, DC —  Over the weekend Buzzfeed reported the death of a 42-year-old Mexican man in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody at a hospital on Saturday. The death is the second to occur in Texas within just three days following the suicide of a 27-year-old Honduran man at the Karnes Detention Center on March 18. The two deaths come as doctors and advocates are urgently calling for people to be released from immigration detention amid fears of a coronavirus outbreak within facilities.

“In no uncertain terms, ICE has proven repeatedly that they are not capable of caring for people in their custody,” said Silky Shah, Executive Director of Detention Watch Network. “We know that in times of crisis, the already deplorable conditions inside detention worsen — people need to be released from detention now.” 

Medical standards developed and implemented by ICE, have proven inadequate time and again leading to preventable deaths of people in their custody. 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 ICE medical care has contributed to numerous deaths and that the agency lacks urgency and transparency when reporting deaths in its custody.

“With the imminent threat of coronavirus, people are sitting ducks in immigration detention,” said Shah. “Doctors and advocates have been ringing the alarm bell for weeks to immediately release people from detention, yet Trump’s racist and anti-immigrant agenda is influencing ICE to keep people locked up knowing our collective health is at risk.”

Today, Congress continues to negotiate a fast-tracked funding package in response to COVID-19 and the massive economic implications as a result. As of now, the proposed package does not include the Trump administration’s original request for massive funding increases for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

“Congress must reject the White House’s request for more ICE and CBP money and prioritize taxpayer dollars on the expansion of critical supplies for health care workers and treatment for all,” added Shah. “Members of Congress must fight to protect the immigrant community, call for the immediate release of people in detention,  and advocate for significant cuts in funding to these abusive and deadly agencies.”


Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals building power through collective advocacy, grassroots organizing, and strategic communications to abolish immigration detention in the United States. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level. Visit www.detentionwatchnetwork.org. Follow @DetentionWatch.