A shocking number of people are dying in immigration custody under Trump


Data shows that 24 immigrants have died in ICE's custody since Trump took office, and that doesn't include migrant children who died in the custody of other agencies.

Since Trump took office, 24 immigrants have died while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Four others died shortly after being released from ICE custody. Five more children have died while in the custody of other federal agencies.

It's a startling number, and it's higher than any time since 2004, when 32 deaths were recorded in one year.

NBC News analyzed federal data to determine the total of immigrant deaths thus far. It has been requesting internal death review records in "nearly a dozen" in-custody deaths for almost a year. However, ICE won't release the reports, even though they are public record.

ICE also has another way to manipulate what data the public can access. ICE can parole a sick immigrant — release them from custody — and send them to the hospital. If they die while in the hospital or shortly thereafter, they don't count as an in-custody death, so no death review has to occur and no autopsy is conducted.

It isn't surprising that ICE is seeing a spike in deaths because its treatment of people in its custody is abysmal. NBC recounted the recent death of one immigrant, Kamyar Samimi. Samimi was likely withdrawing from methadone while in ICE custody, and as his symptoms got worse, he began "collapsing, vomiting and screaming out for help."

Instead of getting him help, nurses at the ICE facility said Samimi was faking it and didn't see any real reason to contact a doctor. That may have been because they were "often unable" to reach the only doctor assigned to Samimi's facility and that the doctor returned calls about 50 percent of the time. When the doctor did come to the facility, he only looked at Samimi through a cell door instead of examining him.

Samimi's treatment wasn't, unfortunately, all that unusual. A recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigation turned up major issues at detention facilities.

Food safety problems were "egregious." Open packages of raw chicken were leaking blood "all over refrigeration units," lunch meat was spoiled, and bread was moldy. Bathrooms also had mold and unusable toilets. Detainees were improperly restrained and restricted from having in-person visits.

Last year, an ICE supervisor told Matthew Albence, just tapped by Trump to be the next director of ICE, that ICE's Health Services Corps was "severely dysfunctional" and that "preventable harm and death to detainees has occurred."

Trump has made it clear that he hates immigrants and engages in cruelty both small-scale and life-threatening. Is it any wonder that the facilities that hold those immigrants are deadly?

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.