/More Immigrants Have Died In ICE Custody This Year Than Every Year Since 2006

More Immigrants Have Died In ICE Custody This Year Than Every Year Since 2006

Two immigrants died in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement this week, bringing the death toll so far this year to 17 ― the highest since 2006.

51-year-old Kuan Hui Lee died Wednesday of “massive intercranial hemorrhage” at the Kendall Regional Medical Center in Miami, a week after officers at ICE’s Krome Processing Center found him unresponsive, the agency said.

Lee, originally from Taiwan, had been in ICE custody for more than six months, according to the press release. U.S. Border Patrol officers arrested him on Jan. 23 for overstaying his temporary visa, which expired in 2004, ICE said.

Separately Wednesday, James Thomas Hill, a 72-year-old Canadian at the Farmville Detention Center in Virginia, also died, an ICE spokesperson confirmed to HuffPost.

The spokesperson declined to specify a cause of death, though noted in an emailed release that Hill had tested positive for COVID-19. Hill was hospitalized on July 10 after reporting shortness of breath.

At least three migrants are confirmed to have died from COVID-19 while in ICE custody, not counting the suspected coronavirus death of Hill on Wednesday.

A detainee walks past boxes to file medical grievances during a 2019 media tour of an ICE detention center in Tacoma, Washing



A detainee walks past boxes to file medical grievances during a 2019 media tour of an ICE detention center in Tacoma, Washington.

Farmville has 290 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the second-highest of all ICE facilities. There are currently 917 confirmed positive cases in the system overall ― and that’s almost assuredly an undercount.

Emails obtained by The Los Angeles Times last month show ICE has deliberately limited COVID-19 testing in at least one California facility. Staff there feared it would be too difficult to quarantine those who tested positive, so they pushed back on carrying out the tests.

“ICE disregards the safety and wellbeing of people in its custody resulting in deadly consequences,” said Silky Shah, executive director of Detention Watch Network, in an emailed statement to HuffPost. “Despite countless calls to free people from detention amid the rising rates of COVID-19 infection, ICE has done nothing — ICE is complicit in this loss of life. Now, more than ever, we see the importance of ending this arbitrary and inhumane system of detention.”

COVID-19 has compounded problems with ICE’s approach to medical care, which in general is “indifferent at best,” a 2019 Politico report found, beginning with inadequate records management.

The report, which reviewed immigrant deaths in ICE custody from 2013 through 2018, “revealed malfunctioning software and troubling gaps in use of technology, such as failure to properly document patient care or scribbling documentation in the margins of forms.”

Together, the 2020 deaths are more than double the total from 2019 for the U.S. government’s fiscal year ending Sept. 30. Eight people died while in immigrant detention last year, according to data tracked by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.