Print View  
DHS Inspector General Report on Deaths in Immigration Detention Inadequate
7/3/2008 11:15 AM

July 3, 2008 – Minneapolis – The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General has made public a long-awaited report on its inspection of two jails, in Minnesota and New Mexico, where immigration detainees died in custody. The report addresses only two of the more than 80 reported deaths of people in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody in recent years.

The report, ICE Policies Related to Detainee Deaths and the Oversight of Immigration Detention Facilities, examines the systemic responses of the jails in St. Paul, Minnesota and Albuquerque, New Mexico, and of ICE in dealing with the deaths. The report attributes the deaths of Maria Inamagua and Young Sook Kim to pre-existing medical conditions, failing to hold ICE accountable for a system that largely ignores the medical needs of those it chooses to detain. A system of over 400 jails and prisons around the U.S. holds over 32,000 people each day in administrative immigration custody.

“The narrow focus of the Inspector General’s report is disappointing,” said Michele Garnett McKenzie, Advocacy Director at The Advocates for Human Rights. “While the report makes useful recommendations, it sidesteps the human rights violations endemic in a system of unjustified detention. These cases illustrate the tragic consequences of the government’s failure to meet even its most basic human rights obligations by such widespread use of detention.”

Greater congressional oversight of the sprawling immigration detention system has been emerging, particularly following reports by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and 60 Minutes regarding treatment of people in ICE custody. Recently introduced legislation would take steps toward addressing problems of immigration detainee medical care. The Detainee Basic Medical Care Act of 2008 was introduced earlier this summer by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

The Inspector General initiated his inspection of the Minnesota and New Mexico jails in response to complaints filed with his office following the deaths in detention. The St. Paul case, involving the death in 2006 of Maria Inamagua, was initiated by the Maria Inamagua Campaign for Justice. The Campaign sought not only an inspection, but called on the Inspector General to assess Ms. Inamagua’s treatment in light of international human rights standards.

Read coverage of the report in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, The New York Times.

Get Acrobat Reader  OIG_08-52_Jun08.pdf