The number of deaths in ICE custody has already more than doubled over the whole of last year

Ten people have died while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody so far this fiscal year, more than twice as many as last year and three times as many as the year before , according to ICE data and press releases.

There have been more deaths in the first eight months of the current fiscal year, which ends in September. 30, than during the 12 months of five of the previous six years. The only financial year for which the 12-month total exceeds the current total is 2020, at the height of the Covid pandemic. That year, 21 people died while in ICE custody. This compares to four in 2023, three in 2022, five in 2021, eight in 2019 and six in 2018.

An ICE spokesperson said in a statement to NBC News that it “takes the safety of those in its custody very seriously and remains committed to ensuring that all persons in its custody reside in safe, secure environments and humans.”

“Comprehensive medical care is provided upon individuals’ arrival and throughout their stay,” the agency said in the statement, as well as in previous statements following detainee deaths. “All persons detained by ICE receive a medical, dental, and mental health screening within 12 hours of arrival at each detention center, a comprehensive health assessment within 14 days of entering detention by ICE or their arrival at a facility, as well as access to medical appointments and 24-hour emergency care. At no time during detention will a detained non-citizen be denied emergency care.

The agency also said its ICE Health Service Corps “executed an operating budget of nearly $324 million for all health services provided to individuals in ICE custody in fiscal year 2022.” .

Two of the deaths during the current fiscal year occurred on consecutive days last week, according to ICE statements.

Hugo Boror Urla, a 39-year-old Guatemalan migrant detained by ICE, died May 22 in a Michigan hospital, according to a statement from the agency last week. He had been in ICE custody, held at the Calhoun County Jail in Battle Creek, Michigan, for about a month before he died, according to the release. Border Patrol encountered Boror Urla on April 17 near Taylor, Michigan, and served him with an order for expedited removal from the country, ICE said.

The ICE statement did not provide additional details about Boror Urla’s condition or hospitalization and said the official cause of death is pending.

The official cause of death is also pending for Cambric Dennis, a 44-year-old Liberian who died while in ICE custody in Georgia on May 21, according to the agency.

Dennis, who entered the United States legally in 1997, was incarcerated at ICE’s Stewart Detention Center in Columbus in late October 2023 while awaiting deportation proceedings after being convicted of an aggravated felony related to trafficking in controlled substances, the agency said.

An immigration detainee is processed at the Krome North Services Processing Center in Miami in 2019. File Jack Gruber/USA Today Network

The two men are among six people who have died while in ICE custody since January, according to ICE.

ICE’s average daily population for this year is 37,835 people, according to the agency. That compares to 28,289 in fiscal 2023 and 22,578 and 19,254 in fiscal 2022 and 2021, respectively, according to ICE.

In fiscal year 2020, when 21 people died in ICE custody at the height of Covid, the average daily population was 33,724.

In fiscal year 2019, when eight people died, the average daily population was 50,165 people.

Immigration advocates have said what they see as ongoing human rights abuses in private ICE detention centers and called for increased accountability and transparency following deaths in ICE custody. agency.

They also asked ICE to release detainees who have health problems and potential sponsors into the country while their immigration cases play out. Advocates have also called for the closure of some detention centers that have been the subject of multiple allegations of human rights violations and other inadequate conditions.

The recent number of deaths is “appalling,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director of the Southern Project, which advocates for social justice issues, including immigration rights, in the South.

“President Biden promised he would take action on privatized migrant detention, and instead they saw nothing,” she told NBC News on Thursday. “What we have seen is continued abuse, continued human rights violations and continued deaths. »

“It’s a real cause for concern,” she said.

An ICE spokesperson said this month that “the use of private detention providers is an essential part of the nation’s detention system that allows ICE to carry out its mission.”

Inmates at Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, Louisiana in 2019. Gérald Herbert/AP file

“The agency’s ability to return individuals to their country of origin, detain those who require detention and pose a threat to public safety is directly dependent on the location and availability of detention space. detention,” the spokesperson said.

Earlier this month, immigrant rights advocates held a small candlelight vigil outside ICE’s New Orleans field office for a man who died in Louisiana in late February and others who died in custody of ICE, taking the opportunity to call on the federal government to cut ties with troubled detention centers. Ousmane Ba, a 33-year-old Senegalese man, died in February. 23 after being hospitalized for nearly a month, according to a statement from ICE.

He had been detained at Winn Correctional Center in rural Winnfield since early September, after entering the United States in late August, ICE said in a statement released in February. 26 statement.

“There will be another death.” It’s just a matter of time,” Sarah Jones, co-chair of the Southeast Dignity Not Detention Coalition organizing committee, said at Ba’s vigil held a little more than a week before Boror’s death. Urla and Dennis.

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