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January 29, 2020
Six people have died while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody since the beginning of the fiscal year in October 2019. Six people in less than four months. By comparison, eight people died in ICE custody in all of the previous fiscal year. Two of the six men were seeking asylum in the United States, and had been placed in ICE custody during processing of their asylum claim. Two had overstayed visas, and had been transferred to ICE by local law enforcement upon release from jail. Another man had overstayed his visa as well. He was picked up at a border checkpoint in Texas. There is no indication he had a criminal record. The sixth man is from Cuba. How he ended up in ICE custody has not been reported yet, but according to press reports he had deportation order going back to 2000. Three of the six men appear to have committed suicide. Three were being held in facilities run by private prison companies; two were in county jails run by local sheriff departments in cooperation with federal authorities.
Nebane Abienwi, from Cameroon, October 1, 2019. Otay Mesa Detention facility (CoreCivic). From our earlier report:
Nebane Abienwi left Cameroon this summer, flying to Ecuador and then traveling up through Columbia, Central America and Mexico. He arrived at the San Ysidro Port of Entry near San Diego and declared his intent to seek asylum. Nebane was 37 years old and a father of six children. According to family members, his goal was to settle in the United States and then bring his family to join him.
On September 26, Abienwi apparently fell off his bunk, and was found in a confused state. He was eventually sent to Chula Vista Medical Center where it was discovered he was bleeding severely in his brain. The family was contacted on September 30th. At this point Abienwi was on a ventilator. Abienwi’s brother informed officials that the family wanted his brother to remain on life support until someone could come to be with him. However, after declaring that Nebane was brain dead, medical staff took him off life support. His brother, who was trying to get travel documents together to come be with Abienwi was not informed by ICE or medical staff. He found out from a reporter who called about the case.
Roylan Hernandez-Diaz, from Cuba, October 15, 2019, Richwood Correctional Facility (Lasalle Corrections):
Crossed the border in May of 2019 seeking asylum. He was handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In August Roylan passed a credible fear interview, and yet was still held in detention, despite having family in the U.S. and thus not being a threat to flee. In October Roylan was part of a protest inside the Richwood Correctional facility where he was being held, and was placed in solitary confinement. We was found dead in his cell, apparent suicide by hanging.
Anthony Oluseye Akinyemi from Nigeria, December 21, 2019. Worcester County Jail:
Akinyemi overstayed his visa and was arrested in Baltimore a year later for sexual assault. He was convicted and given a suspended sentence and probation on Dec 20. However, ICE had issued a detainer so he was not actually released from custody but handed over to Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). He committed suicide (apparently, still under investigation) that night (5:00 a.m., December 21) at the Worcester County Jail where ICE was holding him.
Samuelino Pitchout Mavinga from France, December 29, 2019. Otero County Processing Center (Management Training Corporation):
Mavinga arrived in New York on 28 November 2018, under the Visa Waiver Programme, which said he would need to leave the country no later than 27 February 2019, according to ICE. He was detained by border police at a checkpoint in Texas on 11 November 2019, for overstaying his visa. Mavinga was transferred into ICE custody the next day, and put into detention at the Otero County Processing Center, in Chaparral, New Mexico, pending deportation. A month later, on 11 December, he was transferred to the Torrance County Detention Facility in Estancia, New Mexico.
Mavinga was taken to hospital the next day and found to be suffering from a twisting of the large intestines causing bowel obstruction. He remained under medical care until he died on Sunday 29 December.
Ben James Owen from Britain, January 26, 2020. Baker County Detention Center (Baker County Sheriff’s Office)
[Owen] died at the Baker County Detention Center in Macclenny, Florida, and officials said that the preliminary cause of death appeared to be “self-inflicted strangulation; however, the case is currently under investigation.”
ICE officials said Owen, who had entered the country on a temporary visa in July, had been arrested by the Port Orange Police Department on suspicion of felony aggravated stalking, felony false imprisonment, domestic assault, and violating the conditions of his pretrial release.
ICE officials arrested him after he was released from criminal custody on Jan. 15. He was then placed into deportation proceedings.
On Monday, January 27, 2020, A 63-year-old Cuban man died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at a hospital in Florida. No report yet of where he was being previously held in detention. He had been in custody since January 14. Early reports are that cause of death is cardiac arrest.
In a CNN report, ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox was cited as claiming that deaths in ICE detention are "exceedingly rare" and happen at a rate 100 times lower than federal and state custody. The reality is a bit different. So far this year 6 immigrants have died of the 83,000 people booked into ICE detention facilities. That is a mortality rate of 7.22 deaths per 100,000 incarcerated. It is far lower than federal and state prison mortality rates, which vary annually, but average about 260 deaths per 100,000. It is not, however, 100 times less, but 36 times less. Meanwhile, the average length of stay in ICE detention is about 36 days - in a federal prison its closer to 3,650 days. So the actual risk to an individual of dying in ICE detention is comparable if not higher. And, of course, the mortality rates in U.S. prisons are an egregious example of the utter inhumanity of our increasingly carceral state, not a standard of best practices by which to measure "success."
At least four immigrants have also died in the custody of Customs and Border Protection since the beginning of the fiscal year.