Investigation Cites Serious Problems, Immigrant Deaths in U.S. Detention

By Shani Saxon Sep 25, 2020

A congressional investigation released on Thursday (September 24) finds that immigrants detained in U.S. custody endured massive failures in medical care, including some missteps that resulted in death, CNN reports.

The report, led by House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) and subcommittee chairman Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) cites U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities that are run by for-profit contractors as having made egregious mistakes in caring for detained immigrants.

“Detainees often do not receive critical treatment or face delays," according to the report. The investigation also uncovered “that many of the for-profit facilities lack sufficient medical staff and failed to provide necessary care for chronic medical conditions,” according to CNN. The report notes delays in emergency care, staffing shortages and poor sanitation.

Reports CNN:

Last summer, the House Oversight committee announced it was investigating the Trump administration’s "rapidly increasing" use of for-profit contractors to detain immigrants after reports of health and safety violations.

For its investigation, the committee requested documents from ICE and two for-profit contractors, CoreCivic and GEO Group. The two companies operate facilities with more than 80% of all people in ICE detention. Committee staff also inspected 22 Department of Homeland Security facilities in six states, including ICE detention centers, as well as Customs and Border Protection facilities.

These findings come after a nurse working for an ICE facility Georgia filed a September 14 complaint accusing the detention center of performing “questionable hysterectomies” on unsuspecting detainees. 

In response to the congressional report, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) senior official Ken Cuccinelli told CNN the conclusions are “shocking” and that he plans to bring in an independent team to further investigate. 

According to CNN:

During the course of the congressional investigation, detainees reported that when facility personnel did not deem medical issues to be emergencies, they did not take them seriously. "Individuals suffering from migraine headaches, hernias, and high blood pressure reported that their conditions went untreated," the report reads.

For example, a detainee in Texas reportedly remained in medical quarantine for nine days with facial swelling before he was diagnosed with mumps. He permanently lost hearing in one ear.

The committee detailed the deaths of several detainees in custody. In 2018, Huy Chi Tran, 47, died of a sudden cardiac arrest after eight days in detention. He was placed in solitary confinement at CoreCivic’s Eloy Detention Center in Arizona. According to the report, a guard failed to monitor him and then falsified logs.

Christopher V. Ferreira, a spokesperson for GEO Group, responded to the report with a statement obtained by CNN. “We strongly reject these baseless allegations,” he said. “[They] are part of another politically driven report that ignores more than three decades of providing high-quality services to those in our care.”