DHS Immigration Bureau To Start Reporting on Detainee Deaths in Detention Centers
The Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau will begin reporting more information to the Department of Justice regarding the deaths of inmates at federal detention centers, the Washington Post reports.
During a congressional hearing Wednesday on medical care for detained immigrants, ICE Assistant Secretary Julie Myers said that the change creates "more transparency" about detainee deaths. However, DOJ publishes statistics on fatalities but not on the names of those who died. According to the Post, congressional Democrats since last year have been requesting that ICE reveal the identities and circumstances of immigrant detainees who have died in custody.
The hearing was the first since the Post last month published a four-part series on the "broken system of care" in detention centers for foreigners awaiting deportation. The articles, based on "thousands of pages of internal documents," revealed that 83 detainees had died in detention centers since ICE was created five years ago, according to the Post.
In Wednesday's hearing, Myers and committee Republicans released figures that showed detainee deaths have fallen in recent years and that fewer immigrant detainees die than U.S. prisoners. ICE officials said deaths among immigrant detainees declined 49% between 2006 and 2007, according to the Post. However, Bellevue/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture physician Homer Venters testified that those figures are misleading because they do not factor in that detainees on average are younger and spend less time in custody. Venters testified that when taking the length of stay into account, the mortality rate has increased by 20%.
House Judiciary Committee Immigration Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said ICE officials were "defending the indefensible." Lofgren added, "Whatever you think about the overall debate on immigration, you are not supposed to kill people who are in custody." Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said, "Why should the American people be responsible for paying for Rolls-Royce medical care for illegal aliens?" (Goldstein, Washington Post, 6/5).