Observers allege that conditions at U.S. immigration detention centers have led to the death of numerous detainees. One incident, which began with the June 2011 detention of a 54-year-old, resulted in the man waiting to be treated for 22 days and eventually dying from heart disease after suffering from painful symptoms for about three months. Internal reviews by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement determined that the death could have been avoided with proper treatment, and advocates in Maryland and around the country say the incident highlights major problems with the way ICE operates.
U.S. detention centers hold approximately 34,000 people every day, and a former Department of Homeland Security adviser says that ICE's focus on enforcement forces it to rely on contractors and other entities when it comes to facility upkeep. Health care systems at such centers have also been known to be ill-prepared to handle medical cases, and many medical staff lack appropriate training. In one case, a 46-year-old succumbed to a heart attack after waiting for an hour for a nurse to who didn't know how to use an EKG machine.
Advocates say that current ICE protocols appear to cover up fatal incidents that do occur. Although ICE officials claim they're making improvements, an ACLU lawyer noted discrepancies between ICE's own watchdog reports and the way the agency portrays itself.
Being placed in a detention center is a risky proposition for those accused of immigration violations. In addition to being in danger of medical mistreatment that could potentially cost them their lives, these individuals might discover their relative isolation makes it impossible to care for their families or pursue legal remedies that might improve their chances of avoiding deportation. An attorney might assist people who are in immigration detention by advising them of asylum and other potential options..