The new fiscal year began Oct. 1, 2019, but in a matter of 14 days, two immigrants in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Enforcement (ICE) have died.
The first to die was 37-year-old Cameroon national Nebane Abienwi. The detainee at the Otay Mesa Detention Center (OMDC) in San Diego died Oct. 1, after being hospitalized at the Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center where he was undergoing treatment for a brain hemorrhage since Sept. 26.
Abienwi had been transferred into ICE custody on Sept.19 after applying for admission into the United States without proper entry documents on Sept. 5 at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
Fourteen days later, Oct. 16, Roylan Hernández-Díaz, 43, a Cuban immigrant who entered ICE custody May 20, 2019, and ruled inadmissible under the country’s immigration laws, killed himself.
Hernández-Díaz was found unresponsive in his cell at the Richwood Correctional Center in Louisiana and ICE said efforts by facility staff and emergency personnel to revive him were unsuccessful. The preliminary cause of death appeared to be self-inflicted strangulation, but the case is currently under investigation.
Hernández-Díaz’s wife, Yarelis Gutierrez, 43, told BuzzFeed News her husband had been persecuted by the Cuban government for speaking out against its leaders and trying unsuccessfully to leave the country three times—twice in 1994 and once in 2001. He was also reportedly imprisoned for nine years there before trying once more to seek asylum here.
Hernández-Díaz’s case had been pending before the federal immigration courts.
Two deaths in two weeks of the new fiscal year, compared to 10 for the entire fiscal year last year says a lot of the pressure the ICE detention system is under and the emotional, physical and mental toll its taking on the immigrant detainees, many of whom are non-criminal.
On Sept. 10, Roberto Rodriguez-Espinoza, a 37-year-old Mexican man died more than seven hours after waiting to transfer to a hospital. He was the eighth death of the last fiscal year ending on Sept. 30. The others were:
Nov. 1, 2018:
Nov. 18, 2018:
Nov. 30, 2018:
April 3, 2019:
May 3, 2019:
June 30, 2019:
July 24, 2019:
ICE is currently detaining around just over 50,000 immigrants in mostly for-profit jails, prisons, tents and other forms of detention. These are mainly non-criminal immigrants who are waiting for a hearing to determine whether they can legally remain in the country while being kept in prison-like settings.
Is it any wonder they are considered the concentration camps of 2019, much like the U.S. government used against Native Americans because they were considered as belonging to a group that was considered undesirable in some way? Sadly in 2019, the ‘undesirable’ label has now been slapped on immigrants and asylum seekers.
As Giron Martinez, a 23-year-old student activist from Honduras who had his life threatened by the government, told ABC News of his eight-month detention recently: “only God could help us.”
The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow