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Report: Deaths at Immigrant Detention Centers in AZ, US

A new report says dozens of immigrants have died because of substandard medical care at ICE's Eloy Detention Center in Arizona and in other locations. (OpenSocietyFoundations.org)
A new report says dozens of immigrants have died because of substandard medical care at ICE's Eloy Detention Center in Arizona and in other locations. (OpenSocietyFoundations.org)
February 29, 2016

PHOENIX - A new report says U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are turning a blind eye to substandard medical care in the agency's immigration detention facilities, resulting in unnecessary deaths.

The study by a coalition of advocacy groups singled out the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona for the high number of immigrant deaths there.

Study co-author Jennifer Chan, associate director for policy with the National Immigrant Justice Center, says the report found numerous violations of medical standards at the Eloy facility.

"Today, Eloy is known as the deadliest immigration detention center in America," says Chan. "Since October 2003, a total of 14 people have died in custody at Eloy."

Chan pointed to a 2011 case in Eloy where a 54-year-old Mexican immigrant sought care for four months before he died of cardiomyopathy, which is generally considered treatable.

The report, by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Detention Watch Network and the National Immigrant Justice Center, says there have been 56 deaths in ICE facilities since 2008.

The study found that incidences of death and serious illness were much higher in centers such as Eloy that are operated by private prison corporations instead of government agencies.

Carl Takei, an ACLU attorney, says ICE inspectors ignored the agency's own internal medical reviews.

"The inspection reports show that instead of using the death review findings to force changes in cultures, systems and processes to reduce future deaths, ICE's deficient inspection system essentially swept its own death review findings under the rug," says Takei.

The report calls on ICE to improve its inspections process and the quality of medical care. A spokesperson for ICE says the agency has instituted a number of reforms in recent years and continues to improve health care in detention facilities.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ