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Help on the Way for Immigration Detainees?

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May 2, 2008

Last night, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced H.R. 5950, tentatively called the “Detainee Basic Medical Care Act of 2008,” which would “require the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish procedures for the timely and effective delivery of medical and mental health care to all immigration detainees in custody, and for other purposes.” Kudos to Rep. Lofgren for introducing this bill!

Earlier in the week we blogged about medical care in immigration detention, and the government’s admission to some culpability in the death of detainee Francisco Castaneda. Rep. Lofgren’s bill is meant to prevent the type of gross neglect that led to Francisco’s death. By the time his cancer was diagnosed and treated, it had spread to other parts of his body, and ultimately killed him.

The bill also increases transparency for deaths in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. Last June, after a New York Times article revealed ICE’s reporting of 62 detainee deaths in its custody since 2004, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking more information. Documents received as a result of that FOIA request have revealed that at least 71 detainees have died in ICE custody since fiscal year 2004.

The New York Times article told the story of Sandra Kenley, who died in immigration detention after repeated requests for medication to treat a hemorrhaging fibroid. Sandra’s sister, June Everett, testified before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law last June. You can read her testimony, or listen to a podcast of her telling her sister’s story.

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