ACLU Reacts to DHS OIG Report on ICE Detainee Deaths and Medical Care

July 1, 2008 12:00 am

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Calls report inadequate for addressing 2 out of 69 immigrant detainee deaths and asks Congress and courts to fix deplorable standards governing Immigrant Detention

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WASHINGTON, DC – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reacts to the release of the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General’s report, “ICE Policies Related to Detainee Deaths and the Oversight of Immigration Detention Facilities.” The report examines two of the 33 detainee deaths reported between January 1, 2005 and May 31, 2007 and DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) standards related to detainee deaths and the medical treatment of immigration detainees.

“After compelling reports of deficient medical care on TV and in the newspapers and after detailed testimony before Congress, it comes as no surprise that the Inspector General would find failures in the system of the medical care provided immigrants held by ICE,” said Michael Macleod-Ball, ACLU Chief Legislative and Policy Counsel. Unfortunately, the OIG report does not go far enough to rectify a deplorable situation – it failed to examine 31 of 33 reported deaths and none of the instances of grossly deficient medical care that resulted in harm short of death.

“This report proves that the system cannot be fully cured without comprehensive legislative reform, such as the Detainee Medical Care Act, which is designed to provide thorough and professional medical care to those held by federal immigration authorities. A legislative fix is needed now more than ever to make sure detainees receive a thorough screening upon arrival, priority consideration for serious medical conditions, prompt treatment by qualified medical professionals, and an appropriate appeal mechanism.”

Gouri Bhat, ACLU National Prison Project’s Senior Staff Counsel, reviewed the OIG report and said, “While the ACLU welcomes the investigation of any custodial deaths, 69 immigration detainees have died in custody since 2004, according to ICE’s own figures, and almost no information has been made available about the vast majority of these deaths.”

“After repeatedly requesting critical information about dozens of detainee deaths, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit last week seeking a court order requiring DHS to expedite and comply with the request for information about deaths in ICE custody. While incomplete, the OIG report also makes some effort to analyze medical detention standards and make recommendations regarding the lack of appropriate oversight of medical care at detention facilities. Deficient medical care is a leading cause of deaths in immigration detention, and is the subject of an ACLU lawsuit on behalf of immigration detainees at the San Diego Correctional Facility, an ICE facility run by Corrections Corporations of America, Inc.”

To view the OIG report, go to:

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