For Immigrant Detainees, a Shameful Toll

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Regarding the Aug. 23 editorial "A Detention Mess":

The Post rightly called for improvements in basic health care for immigration detainees, and specifically for enforceable standards. But the toll of preventable deaths will continue to mount as long as Immigration and Customs Enforcement retains its discretionary ability to deny detainees "non-emergency" care -- including cancer biopsies and heart surgery.

ICE denied requests for a cancer biopsy by Francisco CastaƱeda, characterizing the biopsy as elective surgery. By the time the government released him, the cancer -- treatable had it been diagnosed soon enough -- had progressed so far that he died shortly after testifying to Congress about his treatment. Felix Franklin Rodriguez-Torres similarly died of treatable cancer that went undiagnosed until too late. His death in 2007 was acknowledged by the government only last month, after it was uncovered through a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act.

Emergency health care alone does not suffice when the government's overuse of immigration detention has resulted in large numbers of detainees remaining in custody for years.


Staff Counsel

National Prison Project

American Civil Liberties Union


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