Suicides on the rise in immigration detention

For Immediate Release: 
Friday, February 21, 2020
News of Hernandez Colula’s tragic suicide marks the third suicide in ICE custody for FY2020

Youngstown, Ohio — Detention Watch Network is demanding an immediate investigation into the death of David Hernandez Colula, a 34-year-old man from Mexico. Hernandez Colula died on February 20 while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody after being detained at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown, Ohio. ICE is reporting his death as an apparent suicide, marking the seventh death in ICE custody during FY2020. 

“Being trapped in a cage and ripped apart from loved ones for an unforeseeable amount of time is pure psychological torture,” said Bárbara Suarez Galeano, Organizing Director at Detention Watch Network. “The deprivation of freedom in immigration detention coupled with the lack of medical and mental health services is a lethal combination, and it cost Mr. Hernandez Colula’s life.” 

The news of Hernandez Colula’s tragic suicide marks the third suicide in ICE custody for FY2020, which began in October 2019. His death comes after the suicides of Ben Owen James at Baker County Detention Center in Florida and Roylan Hernández Diáz at the Richwood Correctional Center in Monroe, Louisiana. Hernández Diáz was held in solitary confinement at the time, a practice internationally recognized as torture.

Since 2003, 202 people have died in ICE 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 and that ICE lacks urgency and transparency when reporting deaths in its custody.

“Immigration detention is a death sentence,” added Suárez Galeano. “ICE must be held accountable. The rising number of people tragically taking their lives in ICE custody underscores the urgent need to defund ICE and abolish the abusive detention system in its entirety.”