A new report released by the ACLU slams Immigration and Customs Enforcement for preventables deaths of immigrants in the government’s custody. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

A report titled Fatal Neglect: How ICE Ignores Deaths in Detention examines 8 of the 56 immigrant deaths that have occurred in America’s deportation jails. The government agency apprehends thousands of immigrants each year, who are often funneled between different agencies and jurisdictions across private and state-run prisons. Authored by the ACLU, the report excoriates the Obama administration for past mistreatment of immigrant detainees, arguing that a “culture of secrecy” and bureaucratic grey areas allow Immigration and Customs enforcement to avoid responsibility for detainees in its custody.

The report focuses on 8 particularly egregious deaths identified by ICE’s own ICE Office of Detention Oversight (ODO). The government agency identified half of the cases as preventable. Some appear to be complex, and the inmate’s casualties of the chain of custody. For example, an El Salvadorean inmate named Anibal Ramirez-Ramirez showed symptoms of ill health: stumbling in front of his arresting officer and accidentally defecating in front of his immigration judge, according to the report.

A little over a week into his detention, the 35-year-old later died from liver failure inside a private prison. A government report identified number of medical failings at the facility where he died.

“The narrative of the last week of Mr. Ramirez-Ramirez’s life is a chronicle of medical symptoms ignored or misinterpreted as non-cooperative behavior,” the report states.

Immigrations and customs officials have defended their treatment of detainees in the past.

“[ICE] remains committed to providing a safe and humane environment for all those in its custody, including affording access to necessary and appropriate health care,” spokesperson Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe told the AP after the report’s release. “ICE takes the death of any individual that occurs in the agency’s custody very seriously. Under ICE’s protocols, a detainee death triggers an immediate internal inquiry into the circumstances.”

Some of the deaths listed in the report are not complicated bungles between bureaucracies that net multiple contributing factors but cases of well-documented negligence. In one case, a French woman in her twenties was denied medication that she needs for a heart condition, and dies behind bars. Irene Bamenga’s widower is currently suing the government in a civil wrongful death lawsuit.

“I am not being given the full dosage of my medications,” Bamenga wrote in a health service form directed to ICE officials shortly before she died. “Of the six different meds are meant to be take twice a day and so far I have only be given 1 dosage in the morning.”

An ICE press-release following her death identified the fact that she had a heart condition, playing up her state of poor health, but omitting her complaint about the dosage.

“After only 12 days in ICE custody,” the report concludes, “the French citizen died after being given the incorrect dosages of medication.”

You can read the full report, along with 6 other wrongful death reports here.

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