Sunday, June 23, 2024

22 immigrants died under ICE detention in the last 2 years

The 22 immigrants who died in the nation’s sprawling network of detention centers over the past two years came to the United States from countries as far-flung as Vietnam, and as close as Mexico.

Some had been longtime legal residents, arriving as refugee or students. Many were young — half were not yet 45 years old. Roxana Hernandez was one, the 33-year-old transgender woman from Honduras arrived at the U.S. border seeking asylum as part of a migrant caravan, she died within two weeks of entering ICE custody.

Hernandez’s death, along with the recent deaths of two young children held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, has brought scrutiny to immigrants in the federal government’s custody. “One death is too many,” said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 20, in the wake of the first child’s death.

Two years into the Trump administration, 22 immigrants have died in ICE detention, according to an NBC News analysis of 188 detainee deaths since 2003, when the Department of Homeland Security was formed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. This remains below the peak of 32 deaths in 2004, the first full calendar year records were kept.

Deaths rose and then fell during the Obama administration, from 10 in 2008 to five in 2012, a period in which ICE implemented policies to improve detention conditions and oversight. Under Trump, as the immigrant detainee population has surged still higher, the annual number of deaths was 10 in 2017 and 12 in 2018.

ICE has said deaths in detention are “exceedingly rare,” involving a fraction of those detained by the agency. In a tweet last week, Trump foisted responsibility for the children’s deaths onto Democrats as he remained firm in maintaining the government shutdown until Congress approved funding for the border wall.