5 family separation detention center

Death in Detention

While the death of a child at the border brings particular public scrutiny to the federal government’s handling of immigration, the sober reality is that countless other lives have been lost in U.S. custody. NBC News released a report over the weekend taking account of all immigrant deaths that occurred in U.S. detention centers, including the deaths of migrants from Central America as well as from disparate parts of the world. Analysts have tallied 22 fatalities that occurred in U.S. custody from the moment President Trump took office until the end of 2018, a sum that does not include last month’s deaths of young Jakelin Caal Maquin and Felipe Alonzo-Gomez.

Inadequate Conditions and Protocols at Border Detention Centers

Immigrants of all ages die in US custody from illness, neglect, and often suicide, with many of these deaths tied to inadequacies in the system. The NBC News piece cited a human rights report determining that delays, incompetence, and botched emergency services have led to “dangerously substandard care” for immigrants in U.S. custody.

Immigrant detainees have died at detention centers in the past — nearly 200 since the establishment of the DHS in the early 2000s — but conditions in the centers are at their worst under the current administration whose priorities are apprehension and detention. The shutdown will only serve to add strain to an immigration system that is putting lives at risk.

Medical Neglect and Transgender Death

The administration recently released a report on the death of Roxana Hernandez, a 33-year-old trans woman who fled her home country of Honduras to seek asylum in the United States. In U.S. custody for over two weeks, she suffered from dehydration, starvation, fever, as well as an untreated case of HIV. It was evident in an autopsy that she had been physically abused.

As an LGBT refugee, she was qualified to seek asylum at the U.S. border. According to a recent human rights report, transgender people in Central America experience particularly high levels of violence and have low life expectancies. Over the past decade, more than 250 LGBT people have been murdered in Honduras. “Terrorized at home, and abused while trying to seek sanctuary abroad, they are now some of the most vulnerable refugees in the Americas,” a director of Amnesty International told Reuters.

2 Suicide Detention Centers

A Rash of Suicides

Suicide has also been a serious risk for immigrants detained at the border. Over the past two years, five men have committed suicide while in U.S. custody, often following serious lapses in mental healthcare. Thirty-two-year-old Osmar Epifanio Gonzalez-Gadba, an asylum seeker from Nicaragua, was not the only man to hang himself from a noose that he had made from a bedsheet after experiencing hallucinations. The presence of nooses at immigrant detention centers is so troubling that the New York Times recently published an entire article about it, reporting that federal inspectors had at one point found nooses in 15 out of 20 cells during an inspection visit. Despair, solitary confinement, and inadequate access to healthcare all contribute to this troubling incidence of suicides.

Increasing Protections of Immigrant Children

Following the December deaths of Jakelin and Felipe, aged seven and eight years old, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen of the Department Homeland Security announced measures that will finally take into account how vulnerable children are after their treacherous journeys to the border. The DHS has requested more medical personnel and guidance over how their protocols can be improved to prevent the deaths at the border in U.S. custody, specifically the deaths young migrants.

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