Three More ICE detainee die. This time at a Los Angeles-area hospital
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Three More ICE detainee die. This time at a Los Angeles-area hospital

March 8, 2010, 10:10 pm
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Death of detainees at ICE centers is nothing new.
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LOS ANGELES -  A third detainee has died Friday morning while  in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, while he was waiting to be tried in a deportation (Removal) proceeding.  Ernesto Gomez-Vasquez, a 30-year-old Guatemalan national.  He was held at the  Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster, Cali was taken to Antelope Valley Hospital after complaining of a headache and dizziness. He died following complications from a brain tumor.Gomez came into ICE custody July 13, 2009. Following his arrest by ICE, Gomez was screened by medical professionals from ICE's Division of Immigration Health Services. At that time, he did not report any health problems and the medical screening did not reveal any preexisting conditions.

Death of detainees at ICE centers is nothing new.

On July 24, 2009, Vera Stojka, a 55-year-old Czech Republic national being held on immigration violations, died at the Columbia Care Regional Center (CCRC) in Columbia, South Carolina. The preliminary cause of death is cardiac arrest. Stojka was admitted to the CCRC on March 31, 2009, due to longstanding medical conditions.

Last year, Valery Joseph, 23, who was born in Haiti and arrived in the United States as a young boy, died  while being held at an Immigration detention center in South Florida.  According to his mother, Mr. Joseph occasionally suffered seizures, but  they were controlled by medication. She said that  he was in good health.

TheFlorida Immigrant Advocacy Center  called for an independent investigation into Mr. Joseph’s death. “Lack of access to adequate medical care is among detainees’ chief complaints,” said the center’s executive director, Cheryl Little, an immigration lawyer. “The ICE detention system is designed to fail detainees like Valery Joseph.”Ms. Fleury said, her son told her he was sometimes placed in isolation for lengthy periods and stripped naked.

In Virginia last year  Guido Newbrough, 48, who was born in Germany but  had lived in Virginia since age 6. A 2003 conviction for aggravated sexual battery made him subject to deportation, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested him in February. Immigration officials said Newbrough died of a heart attack, but a recently completed autopsy report found an underlying cause: a raging, untreated bacterial infection.  Newbrough was the second ICE detainee in less than two years to die at Piedmont, a locally run, multi-county jail near Farmville that has contracted with ICE to become one of Virginia's principal detention centers for illegal immigrants and non-citizens facing deportation.

A Post investigation last year found that 83 detainees had died in ICE custody during the previous five years in the network of private prisons, county jails and federal detention facilities across the country where the agency holds non-U.S. citizens eligible for deportation. Medical experts said 30 of those fatalities might have been prevented with proper medical care.

Expert reviews of Newbrough's autopsy suggest he would probably be alive if he had been given antibiotics. What probably began as a urinary tract infection had spread to Newbrough's kidneys and entered his bloodstream. Over several days, Newbrough developed a systemic staph infection that attacked his brain, heart and liver, riddling them with abscesses, according to the autopsy report.

United States immigration officials disagree with these complaints.  A division of the Department of Homeland,  SecurityImmigration and Customs Enforcement recently released a study it had done showing that the percentage of deaths per 100,000 detainees was “dramatically lower for ICE detainees than for U.S. prisons and jails and the general U.S. population as a whole.”

Author: Paulo Martins
Paulo Martins is a graduate of the London School of Journalism. His writings concern the plight of man in a digital world and Environmental Issues. He is currently residing in Rio de Janeiro Brazil.
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